Nutrition

What Is Fat, And How Does The Body Use It?

What Is Fat, And How Does The Body Use It?

The human body requires fat to function, and our body uses fat differently compared to protein and carbohydrates. The basic needs that the body requires consist of these three essential nutrients, proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Our body uses these three types of nutrients as sources of energy to perform daily bodily functions.

Each source provides energy differently to our body along with different types of functions. Protein and Carbs for example, equate to 4 calories per gram of carbs/proteins, while fat on the other hand, is equal to 9 calories per gram of fat.


Forms of Fat

what is fatFat comes in 3 different forms: Saturated fat, which could have an impact on blood cholesterol levels, and is found mostly in meats, dairy products and oils. Next we have polyunsaturated fat, which can help lower our blood cholesterol levels, and is found in most plant based food sources. And lastly we have monounsaturated fat – which can help lower LDL Cholesterol, referred to as the bad cholesterol – and is found in both plant and animal sources.

All of these fats are essential for the human body to have optimum performance on a daily basis and is extremely important for exercise.


Fats and Exercise

When you perform high intensity exercises, the body will usually use your carbohydrates for energy to fuel the body, but when we perform long duration exercises, our body will divert from using carbohydrates and rely on using fat sources for energy. How long and intense we are exercising will decide which source of energy is being used.

what is fat

Sitting on a couch all day and just breathing will cause the body to burn calories, and so well that by sitting dormant for a day doing nothing we will burn over 1,500 calories/160g of fat per day. That’s just from sitting still! This is a large amount of calories considering that roughly 3,500 calories is equal to around a pound of fat. But when the body needs more energy to function, such as when we are performing high intensity exercises, the body uses fat for energy by taking the triglycerides in the fat and beginning to break them down and turning these fat molecules into on hand energy to allow our body to continue functioning.

When we exercise at a high intensity, the oxygen we breathe in, when exhaled, turns into carbon dioxide, while the hydrogen inhaled will bond with oxygen which creates water molecules that all know as in the form of body sweat and urine, which the body will excrete in large amounts.


Energy Stored as Fat is Different to Fat we Consume

All of these things play a role in our body’s metabolism, since our body consumes food for energy and nutrients. Some of this energy is used immediately, although what doesn’t get used as energy because our body doesn’t require that high of an energy output, will be stored later as fat. However, with a slow metabolism, the body will store fat easier vs burning it at larger and faster rates. This is because our metabolism is what determines how many calories per gram of fat and carbs we will burn on a daily basis – so a higher metabolism means that less body fat stored.

what is fatWhen we have a large supply of dense muscle tissue on our body, our metabolism will increase due to the high demand of nutrients needed to supply our muscles to prevent them from catabolism, or muscle depletion. So instead of storing fat, those nutrients are now used to supply our muscle cells with the energy they require to prevent deterioration and muscle soreness.

The simplest way to increase the amount of energy your body needs on a daily basis, or increasing you BMR (Basil Metabolic Rate) is to build muscle tissue, so that your body will be required to use more nutrients and store less as fat.


Take-Home Message

Despite the low-fat diet messages often preached, the body requires fat to function and for fueling endurance exercise. However, the fat we eat is different to the fat that gets stored in our bodies – the latter is determined by the amount of calories we burn a day, and whether we consume an excess of calories.



Logan Berman

Logan Berman

Writer and expert


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