Are dietary fats an important macro-nutrient for a natural bodybuilder?
Dietary fats have numerous health benefits.
- aids in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins
- maintains healthy skin and hair
- insulates body organs against shock
- maintains body temperature
- promotes healthy cell function
- increase testosterone production (your testosterone is synthesized from cholesterol)
Saturated fatty acids (SFAs) from dairy products and coconut oil improves health and does not increase the risk for cardio vascular disease or coronary artery disease (1).
Omega 6 from polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) increase inflammation (2). Vegetable oils are high in PUFAs whereas fruit oils are low in PUFAs.
So you do need fats to be healthy, and you also need it to build muscle optimally with high testosterone.
Fats that positively correlate with testosterone are saturated fatty acids (coconut oil being the highest) and monounsaturated fatty acids (olive oil, macadamia nut oil, avocado oil), while polyunsaturated fatty acids (high in every vegetable oil) negatively correlate with testosterone. Your omegas are also polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and correlated negatively with your testosterone. I’m not saying omega 3 is bad, omega 3 is great for your joints and reduces inflammation, but it might lower your testosterone a small bit.
It’s well known that the more healthy fats you eat, the higher your testosterone will be.
Well by how much, and how big a difference does it make?
1) Following a low fat diet (with a higher PUFA/SFA ratio) rather than a higher fat diet (with higher SFA/PUFA ratio) causes a decrease in testosterone. That’s understandable as PUFAs lower testosterone all by itself, even if you don’t lower the amount of fats you eat. (3, 4)
2) Switching from 40% of total energy of fats (higher SFAs/PUFAs ratio) to only 25% energy of fats (higher PUFA/SFA ratio) for the day, results in lower total and free testosterone. (5)
The problem I find with the above two studies are that they increased PUFAs and lowered SFAs. PUFAs lower your testosterone, whether you lower your fat % or not.
3) The individuals in this study got a 13% increase in testosterone when following a high fat diet (41% calories from fats) vs a low fat diet (18.8% calories from fats).
4) By switching from 25% calories from fats to 75% results in a 118ng/dl increase in testosterone after 11 weeks. (6) Say they had 500ng/dl, then it would go up to 613ng/dl. Still not too wow though, as they had to increase their fats by 150% to get those results.
5) In this study, 50-65 year old males switched from their usual diets (>30% calories from fats) to a low fat diet, (15% calories from fats) and their T fell only 12% after 8 weeks.
6) Changing to a low fat diet (<10%) resulted in no drop in testosterone. (7) These men’s T were 510ng/dl before the intervention and remained there ’till after the intervention, despite the fact that they ate low fat. Also, their total cholesterol dropped from 229 to 181mg/dl and it didn’t affect testosterone levels at all.
Fats do increase testosterone, and it is important to eat the proper ratio of macro-nutrients.
Eating more fats will not only increase your total testosterone, but also free testosterone by lowering SHBG.
In this study, 6 individuals consumed a high fat diet (>100g/d). As a result, their testosterone increased and SHBG decreased, but when they switched to a low fat diet (<20g/d), it lowered their testosterone and increased their SHBG.
Macadamia & olive oil are high in linoleic, oleic and palmitic acids which reduce SHBG affinity to testosterone and therefore increases free T (8).
Higher fat consumption will result in higher testosterone and free testosterone, so DHT will automatically increase.
Having more T, might result in higher aromatase activity, if you don’t inhibit the aromatase.
Phenolic compounds found in extra virgin olive oil, is a strong aromatase inhibitor.
However other fats and oils don’t inhibit aromatase, so you need to eat lots of healthy fruits and vegetables to inhibit the aromatase. More on inhibiting the aromatase here
IGF-1 is a growth factor synthesized by the liver from growth hormone. IGF-1 positively correlates with fats and oils (9).
IGF-1 increases muscle protein synthesis, aids in muscle hypertrophy and strengthens your collagen (joints).
I personally would only use the following oils, and also only recommend the following fats:
I wouldn’t use avocado oil as it’s high in beta-sitosterol which inhibits 5-alpha reductase.
If you eat healthy, and only testosterone friendly foods, in this case oils, your testosterone and hypertrophy will be optimal.
Feel free to contact me if you need help with a meal plan or training program.