Seriously, How Much Fat Should I Eat?

Let’s talk about fat. Fat is all the craze right now with low-carb, paleo, and ketogenic diets so why not talk about it right?? I’m sure you have some questions.


Let’s start with some info.

What Is Fat?

Fat is essentially molecules of carbon and hydrogen linked together in long chain like structures. We can get about 9 cal worth of energy from each gram of fat we bring in and it tends to be the easiest form of energy to store in our bodies.

Fun Fact: Fat is somewhat lighter to store than sugar (glycogen when stored) which is why when folks stop eating carbs for a few days they drop weight. They have less glycogen as well as water which leads to a quick weight loss that shows right back up when they go back to eating carbs.

These chains of carbon and hydrogen can be linked together in different ways.This means that there are different types of fats that are used differently by the body. Now based on how much of each type you bring in, for the most part, dictates how “healthy” the fat is.

Generally speaking, of the types of fat above, all of them can be considered healthy and some of them can be considered unhealthy. As Precision Nutrition puts it “ A better definition of healthy fat might be relatively unprocessed fat from whole foods”. If we are following this line of thought then, “unhealthy fats are typically those that are industrially produced and designed to be nonperishable, such as:

-trans- fatty acids that appear in processed foods
-hydrogenated fats such as margarine (hydrogen is added to the fat chain to make a normally liquid and perishable fat into a solid and shelf-stable fat)
-most shelf-stable cooking oils (e.g. safflower, soybean, corn oil, etc.)

Back in the old days, hunter gatherer societies ate pretty much every part of an animal when they could which meant they ate all kinds of fat, just not processed fat. What makes the fat healthy or unhealthy isn’t the fat but actually balance between different types of fats. When we look at the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in the average person, it’s way off balance. In fact most folks live on a ratio of about 16:1 or 20:1. Mostly because so many oils used to cook and preserve food contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids. Think items like corn oil, safflower oil, and factory-farmed meat/eggs/dairy contain unhealthy balances of fat. Soybean oil alone accounts for over 75% of oils consumed by Americans.

The key to keeping most fat healthy is to balance it out from varying sources.

Quick Tip:

If you choose to consume tropical oils, make sure they are unrefined (e.g. whole coconut or extra-virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil). For healthy saturated fats, look for pasture-raised meat and dairy.

Get a mix of fat types from whole, unprocessed, high-quality foods. These include nuts, seeds (hemp, flax, and chia are especially nutritious), fish, seaweed, pasture-raised/grass-fed animals/eggs, olives, avocado, coconut, and cacao nibs.

Avoid industrially processed, artificially created, and factory farmed foods, which contain unhealthy fats.
Keep it simple. Don’t worry too much about exact percentages and grams.
Supplement with algae oil or fish oil daily. Precision Nutrition recommends 1-2 g of algae oil or about 3-6 g of fish oil each day.

Now, how much should you eat??

One simple way to look at this for someone who exercises 3-5 times per week would be from a meal by meal perspective. For ladies, usually 1 thumb sized serving of fat at each meal is enough. For your post workout meal, the fat isn’t specifically needed.  What does this look like?

For most folks, something like this:

For the guys, you simply have 2 thumbs of fat per meal outside of your post workout meal. The fat is not needed there.

In terms of getting a bit more complicated, although we don’t generally recommend it, there are a few different ways to consider how much fat you should eat each day with respect to your body. This table below represents this well:

The key when using numbers like this is to consider where you are now in terms of your body type, not where you were 10 years ago. So, let’s say you are a naturally broad or thick person who would like to lose fat around their midsection. When speaking about fat specifically, you need it to cover about 40% of your total calorie intake.

Each gram of fat is worth 9 calories so, if you are on a 2500 calorie diet per day here is your math:

2500x.40=1000 calories that should be coming from fat. To convert to grams simply divide by 9.

1000/9= 111.11g of fat per day.

Now, everyone is different and the above table is simply a starting point. These percentages can be tweaked and worked on to suit your continued progress and help you move int he direction you want over time.

I hope I’ve answered your questions about fat! If you have any others, please feel free to leave a comment!


Coach Joe Rouse