Last weekend I completed the South Wales Reebok Spartan Super. The 13km race included 20 obstacles and plenty of gruelling Welsh hills! I absolutely love taking part in these races. I don’t compete for time, I take part with my fitness obsessed friends for a fun challenge. These races certainly are a challenge, so it’s important that I fuel and hydrate my body well prior to taking part. So I thought I’d share with you what I ate to power me through the Spartan. I had so much energy during this race, and as hard as it was and as crazy as it sounds I didn’t want it to end!
I opted for a breakfast of scrambled eggs with kale, mushrooms, tomatoes, mange tout, red peppers, spring onions, avocado and smoked salmon. As you can see, it was a huge pile! Then, on the way to the race, I had one of my paleo style banana muffins (or maybe two!).
This brings me onto a discussion about fats. My breakfast dish contained around 38g of fat, which may scare some people who are still in the anti-fat mindset. Fat has long been given bad press, being labelled as a major heart disease contributor, and being associated with obesity and obesity related diseases such as diabetes. Don’t get me wrong, some types of fat deserve these labels, but tarring all fats with this negative brush is not helpful for public health.
Salmon is a fatty fish, it is packed with omega 3 fatty acids. It provides an excellent ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats, which is desirable for the prevention of many chronic diseases. The commonly high level of omega 6 compared to omega 3 in the western diet is implicated in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease, cancer and inflammatory diseases.
Avocados are rich in heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, and are packed with fibre. About 80% of the calories are provided by fat, most of which is monounsaturated fat. Oleic acid is one of these fats, and has been shown to lower cholesterol. The phytosterols found in avocados have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties, providing great benefits for the cardiovascular system. The majority of the carbohydrate in avocado is in the form of fibre, meaning that it is very low in sugar, and does not
As well as plenty of fat and fibre, avocados contain around 20 vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals which have cancer fighting and heart protective properties. Carotenoids, such as lutein, are found in avocados and are easily absorbed in the intestine due to the fat content of this fruit. Caretonoids are antioxidants, and provide great benefits in terms of neutralising toxic reactive oxygen species in the body which otherwise contribute to oxidative stress and cell damage. The fat content also improves the absorption of caretonoids and fat soluble vitamins from other vegetables, which means it’s great to eat avocado with low fat caretonoid containing leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and chard.
Avocados surprisingly contain more potassium than a banana, which helps regulate blood pressure. Calcium and magnesium are important electrolytes for muscle function and fluid balance, very important for athletes, and these are provided by avocados. So, I think it’s safe to say avocados are quite the super food!
Eggs are incredibly nutritious. They have had bad press in the past, being implicted in raising cholesterol levels. However, it is now recognised that cholesterol intake in the diet does not necessarily raise blood cholesterol. The liver produces cholesterol daily, and when eggs are eaten the liver produces less cholesterol so levels remain stable. As well as this, eggs raise HDL (good) cholesterol, which lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Eggs are also rich in many other nutrients, including choline, an important substance which is lacking in most peoples diet. They are good sources of antioxidants, including lutein and vitamin A. They contain high quality protein, with all the essential amino acids provided.
To be honest, I could go on and on about the health benefits of these high fat foods. I also want to talk about how exercise training can increase your ability to utilise fats to fuel the body efficietly, but I think I’ll save that for another post. It is important to emphasize the benefits of including healthy fats in your diet other than those already discussed, these include;
- Greater satiety- you will feel fuller for longer
- Consuming healthy fats offsets consumption of foods containing high levels of refined sugars and grains, improving insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation
- By eating more fat you burn more fat
- Eating fat promotes the formation of androgens, leading to better reproductive health
- Better brain function
- Better skin and eye health
To get to the point of this post, I’m going to cut the essay short and give you a list of the fats that you should consider incorporating into your diet for health, and those that should be avoided;
- Fatty fish
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Chia seeds
- Full fat natural yoghurt
- Unrefined animal fats
- Trans fats and hydrogenated fats; found in baked goods, battered and fried foods, fast food, margarine,
- Hydrogenated vegetable oils; canola, corn, soy, safflower, peanut and sunflower oils
These fats are highly refined, tend to contain high levels of omega 6 fatty acids, and are susceptible to oxidation, making them reactive and meaning that they cause damage to the body.