The correct ratio of fats for athletes is 20-30% fats of the total energy expenditure with a ratio of 10% saturated fats, 10% monounsaturated fats, and 10% monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats have a higher thermogenic effect than saturated fats and improve insulin sensitivity. Many college athletes are deficient in Omega 3 fatty acids. The research suggests that those who will benefit the most from fish oils are those that are deficient.


  • Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are best high fat food for fat loss and weight loss than saturated fats and improved insulin sensitivity
  • Omega 3 fatty acids are good fat foods for keto. Include lots of fatty fish in your diet.


Interestingly, athletes are always searching for shortcuts to change their body composition. However, choosing the best foods for fat loss and muscle gain can be a challenge. Undoubtedly, everyone knows protein is crucial for building muscle, but certain fats may also play a significant role in body composition.

In essence, fats are vital for health and insulation in the body and serve as a primary energy source in our diets. Additionally, fats supply essential fatty acids (linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid) and are crucial for transporting vitamins like Vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Furthermore, essential fatty acids include omega-6 (linoleic acid) and omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid). These are necessary for cell membrane structure, function, and the synthesis of “local hormones” known as eicosanoids.

Dietary Fats and Hormones

Importantly, dietary fats are crucial for producing sex hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen. For athletes, experts recommend a diet comprising 20-35% fat from a diverse range of plant and animal-based fat sources like meats, dairy, avocados, nuts, seeds, etc. Diets with less than 20% of total calories from fat are not beneficial for performance.(1) Notably, dietary fat is an essential energy source for producing fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids.

On the other hand, dietary fats digest slower than protein and carbohydrates and play a pivotal role in satiety. Over time, it’s become evident that not all fats offer the same health benefits. While most of the public recognizes the need to cut down total fat in their diet, they must also grasp the significance of fat quality or the different sources of dietary fat (i.e., healthy fats vs. unhealthy fats).

In a revealing survey of 16 countries, 90% of respondents held negative beliefs about dietary fat. Most just thought they should keep their fat intake as low as possible, and half of the consumers did not know what fats to eat(2). These results suggest that most consumers view fat as a single nutrient, resulting in consumer confusion about the different types of fats.

Alarmingly, consumers couldn’t identify fats beneficial for heart health or pinpoint harmful fats like trans fats (i.e., partially hydrogenated oils). Research has shown that foods rich in hydrogenated fats contribute to heart disease and cancer.

Best High Fat Keto Foods

Athletes also share a disconnect between sports nutrition and its relation to body composition. In a study of college athletes, most underestimated their total calorie and carbohydrate requirements compared with their predictive needs for their sport. Interestingly, those with the lowest scores in sports nutrition had the highest body fat levels.(3)

Fat is stored in triglycerides in adipose tissues and inside muscle (intramuscular triglyceride). When fat is burned as a fuel source, the stored triglycerides in muscle and adipose tissue are liberated from storage; the triglyceride molecule is broken into fatty acids and glycerol and transported to the mitochondria for ATP production. Fatty acids differ by their number of chemical bonds.

Saturated fats have no double bonds, monounsaturated fats have one double bond, and polyunsaturated fats have more than one double bond. Saturated fatty acids are most commonly found in milk (i.e., cream, butter, cheese) and animal meats such as beef, pork, lamb, etc.; however, coconut oil and palm kernel oil also contain high amounts of saturated fats.

Monounsaturated fats

Predominantly, monounsaturated fats are abundant in olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and avocados. Meanwhile, polyunsaturated fats are present in vegetable oils (i.e., corn oil), seed oils (i.e., sunflower oil), and fatty fish. Significantly, Mono and Polyunsaturated fats are cardioprotective.

In contrast, saturated fats have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (4) and are a dense energy source, offering 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram for both carbohydrate and protein. In terms of exercise, fat is the primary fuel for light to moderate-intensity activities, while carbohydrates are essential for high-intensity workouts. Fat becomes a significant energy source for ATP production when there’s a caloric deficit.

Regarding fat utilization during exercise, it depends on the amount of stored glycogen, the duration and intensity of the activity, and the individual’s training level. Some studies suggest that athletes can adapt to low-carb diets, meaning they use more fats as an energy source.

These fat adaptations from a high-fat diet lead to an enhanced ability for muscles to use more fats during exercise due to an increase in mitochondrial capacity.(5) However, no research indicates that consuming over 35% of the diet from fats will enhance performance, except in some ultra-distance events.(6)


Simply put, thermogenesis is the production of heat, especially in humans. Various factors can influence diet-induced thermogenesis, such as cold exposure, pharmacological conditions, and lifestyle. These can boost non-shivering thermogenesis (a rise in metabolic heat production above the basal metabolism not linked to muscle activity) and metabolism through several mechanisms.

You might have heard about brown fat thermogenesis. Essentially, there are two types of fats: white and brown fat. Brown fat leads to thermogenesis/weight loss. Numerous studies have shown that high-protein diets can support weight loss by suppressing hunger and appetite. The thermic response to food intake, known as diet-induced thermogenesis, is the number of calories required for nutrient processing (e.g., digestion, transport, absorption, utilization, storage, etc.)

Compared to carbohydrates and fats, protein has a higher diet-induced thermogenesis. Ideally, a high thermogenesis diet would be richer in thermogenic foods like protein. However, research indicates that certain fats can also boost thermogenesis. In the realm of weight loss, thermogenesis and metabolism are closely linked. Now that you’re informed, it’s essential to understand how to enhance thermogenesis using the right fats.


A common sight among keto dieters is their bacon and eggs breakfast with avocado slices, promoting their fat-burning meal. Yet, most keto diets rely heavily on saturated fats from steak, beef, whole eggs, etc. It’s worth noting that saturated fats oxidize (i.e., burn) at a slower rate than monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Experts recommend that the best fatty foods


Delving deeper, the fatty-acid composition of a diet influences the phospholipid makeup of a cell. Significantly, the effect of dietary fatty acid composition on membranes is especially influenced by omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids compared to short-chain fatty acids like saturated fats. Research has shown that saturated fats alter the composition of skeletal muscle phospholipids, leading to reduced insulin sensitivity.(7-9)

For instance, olive oil resulted in a more pronounced diet-induced thermogenesis food response than sunflower oil, cream, and flaxseed oil.(10-12) In one study, subjects were randomized to calorically matched diets: one high in saturated fats and the other high in monounsaturated fats. By the study’s end, the high monounsaturated fat group exhibited greater increases in fat oxidation than the saturated fat group. Interestingly, daily energy expenditure activity slightly decreased in the high saturated fat group but modestly increased in the high monounsaturated group.(13)

BEST HIGH FAT FOOD: The Power of Monounsaturated Fats

Subsequent research by the same team found that substituting saturated fats with monounsaturated fats led to increased physical activity and reduced feelings of anger. These findings align with other studies showing that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have a higher thermogenic effect than saturated fats and enhance insulin sensitivity.(14) Recently, several new versions of the ketogenic diet have emerged, including the Spanish Ketogenic Diet. Thus, monounsaturated fats are beneficial fat foods for keto.

In contrast, the Mediterranean Ketogenic Diet emphasizes monounsaturated fats from olive oil and fatty fish, as opposed to saturated fats. While there hasn’t been a direct comparison of a Mediterranean keto diet to a traditional keto diet in a weight loss study, several studies have shown participants on the Mediterranean keto diet, even with uncontrolled calories, experienced weight loss and health improvements.(15, 16) Undoubtedly, olive oil and avocado are healthful fat sources for keto.

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Omega-3 fatty acids(i.e., fish oils) have recently been found to reduce body fat by favoring fat oxidation and increasing energy expenditure in muscle.

Surprisingly, research found that subjects lost more weight on a calorie-controlled diet when they consumed a super peanut higher in oleic acid than on a calorie-controlled diet with regular peanuts. To put it in perspective, oleic fatty acid constitutes 51.0% of total fat in conventional peanuts and 81.5% in high-oleic peanuts.

In a controlled study, subjects were randomized to three diets: a calorie-controlled diet, a calorie-controlled diet plus peanuts, and a calorie-controlled diet plus high oleic peanuts. By the study’s conclusion, the peanut and high oleic peanuts groups lost more total body fat, with the high oleic peanuts group shedding the most body fat percentage. Remarkably, the subjects weren’t exercising, but only the high oleic peanuts group saw an increase in total lean mass.(17)


Fish oils, especially eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have been proven to enhance cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. A common issue is that most diets have an imbalance between Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratios, which can adversely impact athletes’ health and performance. Studies suggest that low Omega-3 fatty acid levels correlate with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

The Omega-3 Index, which sums up EPA and DHA levels in membranes, reflects EPA and DHA intake and status in tissues. It was developed as a risk stratification system to identify those at high and low risk for developing cardiovascular disease. In a recent study involving 404 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I football athletes, the Omega 3 index was examined in relation to the risk of cardiovascular disease in football players.

The findings were startling: 34% of the athletes were at high risk (i.e., low Omega 3 Index), 66% were at intermediate risk, and none of the football players were in the low-risk category.(18) This indicates a widespread deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids among athletes due to a lack of seafood consumption.


Both types of PUFA are vital, with omega-3-derived fatty acids exhibiting anti-inflammatory properties, immunity, tissue healing, etc., while omega-6 fatty acids display both anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory functions.(19) Recent discoveries show that omega-3 fatty acids (i.e., fish oils) can reduce body fat by suppressing appetite, promoting fat oxidation, increasing energy expenditure in muscle, enhancing thermogenesis, and possibly reducing inflammation in body adipose tissue.(20, 21)

PUFA is believed to boost the activity of peroxisome proliferator-activated nuclear receptors (PPARs), stimulating the expression of genes involved in fatty acid oxidation.(22)

One notable study found that supplementing with 6g/day of fish oil for three weeks led to a reduction in body fat mass. Interestingly, fish oil supplementation increased fat oxidation without altering the resting metabolic rate. Resting fat oxidation rose by 22%, and body fat decreased by −0.88 kg on the fish oil diet; these differences weren’t due to any variations in dietary intake or physical activity.(23)

Subsequent research revealed that omega-3 fatty acid levels in subcutaneous adipose tissue were inversely related to adipose tissue size. In contrast, adipose tissue and dietary saturated fatty acids significantly correlated with increased fat cell size and number.(24)


Not all studies have shown that fish oils reduce body fat. A meta-analysis of studies on fish oil found that fish oils had no impact on reducing obesity.(25) You may need clarification about the role of omega-3 fatty acids and their contributing effects on fat loss. It is suspected that those deficient in omega-3 fatty acids will observe the greatest impact, but if your diet is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, further consumption of omega-3 fatty acids will not enhance fat loss.

BEST HIGH FAT FOOD: Omega 3’s and Weight Loss

A study by Jakobsen et al. investigated 1998 lean adults and found that the proportion of plasma omega-3 fatty acids was not associated with a subsequent 1-year change in body weight.

The average plasma levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the participant’s blood were in the 80% range.(26) Thus, those with the lowest levels of omega-3 fatty acids benefit the most from fish and fish oils. In a randomized study of 320 overweight men and women, subjects were assigned to one of four isocaloric energy-restricted diets (i.e., 30% caloric restriction) for eight weeks.

A.) control group consisting of no seafood (sunflower oil capsules), b.) lean cod (fish low in fatty acids), c.) salmon (fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids), and d.) fish oil supplementation.

At the end of the study, all the fish groups (lean and fatty) and the fish oil group lost more than 2.2 lbs. compared to the control group that had no seafood or fish oil supplementation. The researchers suspected the high taurine levels in the lean fish contributed to the enhanced weight loss effects.

Thus, supplementation will not further enhance fat loss or weight loss if you eat a diet consisting of fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids. If you are not a fish eater and are not consuming sources of omega-3 fatty acids, then supplementation may be warranted.


The current research suggests omega-3 fatty acids between .3-3 grams per day reduce body weight and improve body composition.(21) A six oz piece of salmon contains between 1,774-4,504 mg, depending on the source. Sardines, walnuts, flax, and chia seeds are also rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Deficiencies of omega three can cause inflammation and more pain in those with rheumatoid arthritis.

Other benefits of fish oil are enhanced anabolism by sensitizing muscles to insulin and amino acid availability. The enhanced anabolic response was not due to an increase in protein synthesis but rather an enhanced nutrient partitioning which can be especially important to older adults experiencing anabolic resistance.(27, 28)

Another benefit of Omega-3 supplementation is reduced muscle soreness. Men who consumed ~0.6 g of EPA and 0.26 g of DHA for eight weeks before arm exercises resulted in greater strength and less muscle soreness than those consuming a placebo.(29) Others have found that fish oils can result in less stiffness after intense muscle-damaging exercise and lower creatine kinase levels (i.e., an indirect marker of muscle damage), suggesting a protective effect on muscle.(30)

It has been found that most of the anabolic effects from fish oils are due to the EPA rather than the DHA.(31) In a 2020 analysis of the studies on Omega-3 fatty acids, the evidence for increasing strength and mass was weak. Still, the evidence for Omega-3 fatty acids enhanced recovery, improved performance, enhanced endurance, and reduced risk of injury/illness was strong. (32)


In sum, it’s been found that the order effect of diet-induced thermogenesis among the fats is: Polyunsaturated fats> Monounsaturated fats>Saturated fats.(33-35) Having a healthy balance of fats is important for health and performance. However, the specific types of fats you consume can increase energy expenditure. (36) The correct ratio of fats for athletes is 20-30% fats of the total energy expenditure with a ratio of 10% saturated fats, 10% monounsaturated fats, and 10% polyunsaturated fats.

You may be tempted to enhance fat loss with thermogenic supplements, but the research suggests they are not conducive to fat loss. Other popular foods, such as best keto fat bombs for weight loss, should be considered cautiously. Keto fat bombs are typically made from a high-fat base source(i.e., peanut butter or coconut) and flavorings to make a tasty treat. It’s always about calories. If you go over your caloric intake, you can gain fat, even if it is a keto fat bomb.


  •  The correct ratio of fats for athletes is 20-30% of the total energy expenditure with a ratio of 10% saturated fats, 10% monounsaturated fats, and 10% monounsaturated fats.
  •  Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats have a higher thermogenic effect than saturated fats and improve insulin sensitivity
  •  Many college athletes are deficient in Omega 3 fatty acids
  •  The research suggests that those who benefit most from fish oils are deficient.


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