Fat is one of the three macronutrients, alongside carbohydrates and proteins. All three come with a caloric load and are vital for nourishing our bodies and allowing us to live. They give us the energy our bodies need.
Fat is quite a bit calorically denser than protein and carbohydrates. Whilst the latter two deliver 4 calories per gram, fat gives us 9 calories per gram. This makes it easy to overeat fat, but also means that skipping fat will often leave us without sufficient energy.
Fat intake gives us more than simply energy, however. It has a few important functions, as noted above.
First and foremost, fat forms a good energy reserve when stored as adipose. This can be broken down when the body isn’t taking in enough energy to meet its daily needs- in a nutshell, this is the process of losing weight during a caloric deficit, as bodyfat is metabolised for energy. This adipose also protects our internal organs from harm and insulates the body against cold.
In addition, fat serves many roles within the body, as amply demonstrated by the effects of not taking in enough. A deficit of dietary fat can lead to any of the following symptoms:
- Dry and scaly skin
- Dry eyes
- Feeling constantly cold
- Dry hair and/or hair loss
- Hormonal problems, including loss of menstrual cycle
- Inability to feel full/always feeling hungry
- Issues concentrating and/or mental fatigue
- Deficiencies in fat-soluble vitamins
- Constant fatigue
There is no ironclad rule for what your fat intake in a day should be, however. There is no golden number. Nevertheless, most diets work from a common ratio between macronutrients which offers around 20-35% of daily caloric intake from fat. For most people, following a standard 2,000kcal diet, this means about 400-700kcals from fat.
As each gram of fat contains 9 calories, this gives us about 44-78 grams of fat per day (400/9, 700/9).
However, this is quite a broad range, and the range itself can shrink, grow or shift depending on your own biometrics, activity levels and dietary goals. For this reason, a fat intake calculator is a good idea: this will make use of all relevant variables to give you a range that will best suit you.
Fat intake calculators are actually pretty simple to use. All you have to know are a few of your key biometric readings, lifestyle factors affecting you, and your health and fitness goals.
Then, simply follow a meal plan that will give you about this volume of fat per day, preferably spread quite evenly throughout the day’s meals.
This may take a little working out at first as you get used to measuring food to this level. However, there are plenty of apps that can help you with meal planning and macronutrient targeting. This will very quickly become second nature and will help you as you progress along your health and fitness journey.