Nutrition, Nutrition

Are fats good or bad for strength training?

We evolve to consume unprocessed fats from animal and plant sources and good fats have a role in cardiovascular health, hormone production, satiety and more

Got a fear of fats? Don’t sweat it. Aquanation personal trainer Byron Manning explains, including healthy fats in your diet can be helpful for achieving your goals - but still proceed with caution. Here’s what you need to know to get those gains. 


Are fats bad?

Nope, well not all of them anyway. As Manning explains, we do need some degree of fats in our diet.

“We evolve to consume unprocessed fats from animal and plant sources and good fats have a role in cardiovascular health, hormone production, satiety and more,” he says.

Of course, there are certain fats best avoided not just for achieving your fitness goals, but overall health as well. Manning refers to industrially processed fats (such as butters) or trans fats (picture muffins and donuts) as ones to avoid.

Can fats help your gains?

Unlike protein, fats aren’t closely tied with muscle development but that doesn’t mean they can’t play a role in your workout. In fact, they can give it a healthy boost.

“In most situations, you’re going to need energy to build muscle in the first place, so fat will pack a punch in small energy doses in some cases,” he advises.

Manning clarifies that essentially, if you include healthy fats in your diet you can actually “build up the energy you get from nutrition in total and therefor support the process of muscle development to some degree.”

When it comes to which healthy fats to include in your diet Manning recommends omega-3s but be careful not to have an omega-3 overload.

“Omega-3s might reduce inflammation, but sometimes inflammation is what you want.” The personal trainer adds, “the damage you cause lifting weights might cause inflammation which might promote adaptation or change and if you’re having too many omega-3s on top of that you’re dampening that stimulus.”


bread with scallion spring onion two muffins

Fats before you workout

Manning says that although including fats in your diet is important it’s best to avoid munching down too much good fat goodness pre-workout. He explains this will slow your digestion.

If you do have a high-fat meal before exercise, Manning recommends “consider having it earlier so you don’t feel uncomfortable during your workout.”

A common culprit here is peanut butter. Manning warns although this tasty spread is a fav for gym junkies “it does take longer to go through your body, so don’t overload on it.”

How much fat should you have in your diet?

It’s all based on the individual says Manning. He recommends starting with the Australian Dietary Guidelines of 20-35% of intake with less than 10% from saturated fat.

“All the unsaturated fats are good to have in your diet and you really need a balance of saturated and unsaturated fats and it’s always best to steer clear of those trans-saturated fats,” advises Manning.


Byron Manning is a personal trainer at Aquanation and Aquahub with a Bachelor of Food and Nutrition Science at and Masters of Dietetics at Deakin University. Learn more.