Steak Night. 2 steaks, potato and veggies for $10. Gold.
It was also an excuse to get the guys together; steak night was more about catching up than the cheap steaks. Socialising like this is taken for granted when you’re growing up, yet now it’s harder to get everyone together as our lives have become so cluttered… we should cherish these times.
Joking about the old times and we were getting pretty hungry. I hadn’t eaten since midday and the steak was taking too long. Stop, enjoy the moment I’d tell myself. Stop thinking about the steak, dammit!
Okay, steaks here, great, let’s upgrade this thing. “Side of butter please.” I get the collective rolled eyes from my friends. Really, do we have to go through all of this? Is it such a bizarre request?! The conversation continues until the butter comes out.
I put a generous amount on that would make many doctors squirm. “Okay stop,” said a friend sitting opposite, “we know that you’re into health and all that, but why, why are you doing that?!”
“Do you really want to know?” I replied.
“You know what, I do. Surely all that fat is clogging your arteries and killing your heart?!”
He wasn’t making an attack, he was more inquisitive than that and he was giving me the benefit of the doubt that there was method behind the madness. I could also feel the curiosity of the group. I didn’t resemble an unhealthy person that would purposely clog their arteries. I’m a personal trainer, competing crossfitter, and in between running a health business I study nutrition and chiropractic. Surely I was doing more than seeking attention.
I went on to justify why I smothered my steak with butter. They lost interest after three points, but I remembered a few more on car ride home, so I’ve included them as well….. Enjoy!
Why Fat is Good
1. It helps you burn fat.
Eating fat will not make you fat. Sounds strange doesn’t it, and it should, because we’ve heard the ‘cut down on fatty foods’ message for our whole lives. It may just take another lifetime of ‘eat fat to burn fat’ to get the message.
So, eating fat helps insulin and leptin sensitivity (two hormones that are significant for our body to lose/gain weight), and will boost our production of ketones – also responsible for fat loss. A diet rich in fat is also highly satiating – leading to ‘responsible’ eating and not going back for seconds, or thirds. If you need proof of this, try a high fat breakfast with eggs and avocado, see how long this keeps you satiated, versus a sugar filled cereal.
My friends are all quite slim, so this didn’t really phase them… But maybe this will.
2. It improves hormone production (particularly testosterone)
Yep, Rocky was onto something with his guzzling of raw eggs. The fats in those eggs were helping promote testosterone which promotes muscle gain, fat loss, libido and is an antagonist for the catabolic hormone, cortisol. A study found strong correlations between improved testosterone levels and a diet rich in saturated (butter, eggs, meat, coconut oil) and monounsaturated (olive oil, avocado, nuts). Be careful of the fats you eat, however. The same study found a decrease in T production in the people who ate polyunsaturated fats (canola, soybean, margarine) and other Heart Foundation and Dietition Association approved fats. This also correlates with vegetarians appearing to have less testosterone than meat eaters (here and here). Could it be that the man made ones are bad and natures one’s good?! Now there’s a thought.
Okay, the awkward silence means something… maybe the T word got them.
Behold, a high fat diet. Not that weird.
3. It improves brain function.
Ketones. I mentioned this in point 1 as being important for fat loss, but far cooler is ketones’ effect on mitochondrial function (mitochondria is like the powerhouse for our cells). This study found that ketones have a powerful energy source for the brain as they provide enzymes and energy metabolism for the hippocampus – responsible for our learning. And how do we get these ketone thingy’s? By eating fat. Avocados, olives, coconut oil, or putting butter on your steak. This ketones for brain function idea goes deep and has been studied for more than fifty years for it’s effect on neurodegenerative diseases such as alzheimer’s – google Peter Attia’s research for more on this.
This is where I lost them – the rest of this post is the stuff I thought about later.
4. More Omega 3’s – EPA and DHA.
If you’re reading this then there’s a good chance you take fish oil because it’s good for you, but did you know why? Fish oil is a valuable source of the omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, these support the outer layer of our cells – good for brain protection and lowering inflammation. What’s better is that these omega 3’s are found in non – pill forms! Grass fed meat, wild caught fish, grass fed dairy and some nuts and seeds like flaxseeds are excellent sources of omega 3’s. Oh and don’t cook with these (despite Heart Foundation advice), the omega 3’s can easily oxidise and turn into trans fats – a whole other topic.
5. Good for the Heart
In case you’ve been living under a rock, the war is over and butter won. For fifty years we’ve heard the saturated fat = heart disease story (saturated fat being butter, bacon, eggs, meat, coconut oil – the good stuff). This was the belief based on some dodgy science and effective marketing campaigns by the vegetable oil industry – that image of fat ‘clogging’ arteries still sticks in my mind. A meta analysis of 21 studies of 347,247 people in 2010 found that there was no association between saturated fat and heart disease (study). In fact, saturated fat raises HDL cholesterol – the type that transports cholesterol away from the arteries and towards the liver for excretion (good thing). HDL has also shown to lower risk of heart disease (study, study, summary).
6. Fat is Tasty
I’ll take this over a quinoa salad most days of the week.
The Take Away:
So, fat is our friend, so we should consider welcoming it into our diet. Is this a license to eat bacon every meal? Probably not. But listen to what’s going on in your temple, get informed, try some stuff, and find what works.
I only made some of this up:
Belanger, A. et al. (1992) Influence of diet on plasma steroid and sex plasma binding globulin levels in adult men. Arterioscler Thromb.
Guldbrand, H., Dizar, B., et al. In Type 2 Diabetes, Randomization to Advice to Follow a Low-Carbohydrate Diet Transiently Improves Glycemic Control Compared with Advice to Follow a Low-Fat Diet Producing a Similar Weight Loss. Diabetologia. 2012. 55(8), 2118-2127.
Hill, P. & Wynder, E. (1978). Effect of a vegetarian diet and dexamethasone on plasma prolactin, testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone in men and women. American Health Foundation.
Mensink, R. & Katan, M. Effects of dietary fatty acids on serum lipids and lipoproteins. A meta analysis of 27 trials.
Mensink, R., Lock, P., Kester, A. & Katan, M. Effects of dietary fatty acids and carbohydrates on the ratio of serum total to HDL cholesterol and on serum lipids and apolipoproteins: A meta analysis of 60 controlled trials.
Volek, J., Kraemer, W., Bush, J., Incledon, T., Boates, M. (1997) Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology. Jan 1997. Vol 82 (1).
Wang, C., et al. Low-fat High-Fiber Diet Decreased Serum and Urine Androgens in Men. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2005. 90(6), 3550-3559.