Human bodies consist mainly of carbohydrates, proteins, water and fat. Although fats or lipids as they are called in medical terminology, have gained quite a bad reputation they are absolutely essential for the body. Lipids make up 18 to 25% of dry body mass in a healthy and lean adult.
There are a variety of lipids in our bodies. Maybe the best known is cholesterol. Although too much cholesterol can be very damaging to the body, it is an important part of the body’s chemistry as it forms part of our cell membranes and is a precursor for sex hormones and vitamin D. Even more important are the triglycerides, which are the body’s main option for energy storage. They contain twice-as-much energy as carbohydrates or protein, which means that the body can store a lot of energy in a small space by converting any excess energy from food into triglycerides and storing it in fatty tissue. Other lipids in our bodies include phospholipids, which are the main components of our cell membranes, eicosanoids, which are involved in, amongst other things, our immune response and vitamin E and F, which help wound healing and blood clotting respectively.
So where do the fatty acids come in? Fatty acids are small lipid molecules, which form the building blocks of the larger molecules mentioned above. Moreover, fatty acids are part of the most important cellular energy transfer mechanism called the adenosine triphosphate or ATP cycle. This molecule functions like a universal energy currency in the body that fuels all of our metabolic processes. The more energy we require from our bodies, the more ATP our tissues will need to burn, or strictly speaking, convert back to the low energy state called ADP. This is especially relevant in high performance sports such as running, cycling or body building.
Fatty acids originate from our diet. Fats are part of many foods such as oils, meat, fish and nuts. Because they are so rich in energy, our bodies have evolved a distinct preference for fats, which is why they taste so nice to us and we end up eating too much of a good thing. Not all fats are equally healthy for us. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are chemically slightly different than saturated fatty acids are better for us. The former can be found in plant oils such as olive oil or sesame oil, whereas saturated fatty acids occur mostly in animal tissues such as meat.
Finally, there are also two fatty acids, which the body cannot produce by itself and which have to be taken in via our diet. Therefore, they are similar to vitamins and are called essential fatty acids or EFAs. These are alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid. Foods rich in essential fatty acids are fish, hemp and soya oil, sunflower seeds, walnuts and leafy vegetables. They are especially important for a healthy heart and seem to play a role in preventing depression.
“Reggie Johal is a former Great Britain American Football player with a background in strength and fitness coaching with articles published in many leading online and print magazines including Muscle and Fitness.
Reggie is the founder of Predator Nutrition, one of the leading sports and bodybuilding supplements retailers in Great Britain, which has recently expanded offline with the opening of their first retail store.
Reggie’s other passion involves working in the community and Predator Nutrition have been commended recently for their work by the charity Kick4life.org.”