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Fat intake recommendations for active people

This is an excerpt from The New Power Eating by Susan M. Kleiner, PhD, RD, with Maggie Greenwood-Robinson, PhD.

If you’re an exerciser, bodybuilder, or strength trainer trying to stay lean, you should control your total fat intake to control your total calorie intake. For reasons around both physical training, health and emotional well-being, I like my clients to hover around 25 to 35 percent, of their total calories from fats, depending on their total calorie intake and specific training goals at the time. There are reasons that you might alter this percentage, and we will discuss those below.


There are many strategies for accomplishing this fat intake level. One less-structured way is to follow the AHA guidelines for food choices. If the majority of your food choices are plant-rich from a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, and you add in animal protein-rich foods from fish, meat, and dairy to round out your diet, your total fat intake is most likely to be in a well-controlled zone of about 25 to 35 percent of calories each day. I want to emphasize the word “variety.” If you neglect variety and choose a majority of high fat plant foods, like avocados, oils, nut butters, and seeds, you will have created a high-fat diet. Or, if you include dairy but avoid meats, and eat a high volume of cheese, you are also creating a high-fat diet. So the label that you put on your diet doesn’t protect you from less healthy choices. You have to ensure the variety in your diet, which promotes health and performance.


Your diet should contain much more unsaturated than saturated fat: 5 percent saturated, 10 to 15 percent monounsaturated, and 7 to 10 percent polyunsaturated.


A much more structured way to monitor your fat intake is by counting the grams of fat in your diet each day. To be honest, counting calories and macronutrient grams daily is probably my least favorite way to live life. I prefer that you plan a food template, perhaps monthly, of what you will include in your diet each day using food groups, with the knowledge of the macronutrient content of the foods in those groups. Then you can choose from within those groups as they fall in your plan each day, without constantly counting, and know that you are on your plan. This gives you so much more freedom to choose as life presents itself in your day, rather than structuring and restricting your life around your food plan. And you can be more comfortable with your diet at the same time. In all the menu chapters in The New Power Eating, you will see how I use a food group template down the left column of the page to fill in a daily menu of food choices.


You can calculate your own daily fat intake by using the following formulas:


Total Fat

Total calories × 30% = daily calories from fat / 9 = g total fat

Example: 2,000 calories × 0.3 = 600 / 9 = 67 g total fat


Saturated Fatty Acids (SFA)

Total calories × 5% = daily calories from SFA / 9 = g SFA

Example: 2,000 calories × 0.05 = 100 / 9 = 11 g SFA


Following the Power Eating plan, first determine your protein and carbohydrate needs. All of your leftover calories are fat calories—most of which should be monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Be sure to read food labels for the fat content per serving of the foods you buy in the supermarket. The grams of fat are listed on any food package that provides a nutrition label.


Fat Substitutes and Fat Replacers

Many low-fat foods replace the fat with starch, fiber, protein, and other forms of fat. But why even bother with fat substitutes and fat replacers when you need the right kinds of fat in your diet? Go ahead and continue to enjoy healthy fat in foods such as extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, avocados, and nut and seed oils. Your body needs and deserves them.


What’s more, we don’t yet know what effect artificial fat has on health. Some nutritionists and other health advocates are concerned that consumers may get so carried away with eating fat-free foods that they won’t obtain enough of the healthy fat their bodies truly need.


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The New Power Eating

The New Power Eating

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