I’ve been championing fat for quite a while now — trying to debunk the myths of this wonderful macronutrient — and it turns there is yet another reason to love healthy fats: muscle-strengthening! While carbohydrates and protein are essential building blocks for building and strengthening muscles, turns out fat is just as important.
Not only is fat needed for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins, is essential for growth and development, and helps burn unwanted adipose fat tissue, but it’s also a great source of stamina-boosting energy. With that said, just like all other parts of a healthy diet, it’s important to know how much is too much and how much is too little. This is especially true when you consider that fat is rich in calories.
Let’s dive in and learn a bit more about dietary fat and muscle strengthening!
What is Dietary Fat?
With that said, fat is a powerhouse energy maker!
In fact, per Iowa State University, the “primary function of fat is as an energy reserve,” and even though the body prefers carbohydrates, fat has been found to be a better more sustainable energy source. That’s not all that fat can do! Fat is also essential for helping “the body absorb necessary fat-soluble vitamins” including A, D, E, and K. Plus, fat supports the health of your “hair and skin,” as well as “insulates the body protects organs and fills fat cells.” On top of all that goodness, essential fatty acids (think Omegas), “contribute to brain development, blood clotting and ai in inflammatory control.”
With that said, not all fats are created equal! Stick with the major healthy fats — monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, and the Omega fatty acids — and steer clear of the unhealthy (and dangerous) trans fats!
Fat and Muscle Strengthening
When it comes to strengthening muscle, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got enough fat in your diet. Dietary fat is rich in caloric value, containing “nine calories per gram, which is more than double what protein and carbohydrates contain, four calories per gram.”
How does this help build muscle?
In order to boost your muscle strength, you’ll need a wealth of energy and endurance. Due to dietary fat’s caloric content, it can be “helpful for providing energy to fuel exercise and other strenuous activity,” especially when it comes to weight and strength training, which is an essential part of strengthening and building muscle mass.
Yet, just as all fats are not created equally healthy, not all fats are equally good at strengthening muscles. If you’re looking to incorporate fat into your diet for purposes of building muscle, you’ll want to focus on omega-3 fatty acid, saturated fat, and medium-chain triglycerides also called MCT’s.
Fat the Calorie Champion
As is similar to protein, fat consumption should be consumed in moderation and with care, especially since “fat contains twice the number of calories as carbohydrates and protein.”
The American Heart Association recommends “consuming between 25 and 35 percent of your daily calories from dietary fat.” This may seem like a difficult goal to master, but, as it turns out, fat is more prevalent in plant-based foods then you think! For example, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “1 tablespoon of olive oil has 120 calories and 1 ounce of walnuts (about 14 nuts) has 185 calories,” both of which source those calories from healthy fats.
High-fat plant-based foods include many vegan staples such as most all nuts and seeds, avocado, and vegetable oils including extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and palm oil. So make sure to take a look at your pantry and keep that fat intake to the AHA’s recommended 25 to 35 percent!
Healthy Fat and Protein-Rich Plant-Based Foods Plus Recipes
The key to building and strengthening muscles is integrating a healthy balanced diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein, as well as healthy fats. Instead of searching foods that meet each of these demands, why not try to integrate foods that offer all of these health benefits all at once? This will not only simplify your diet regimen, but it will also ensure that you’re getting the appropriate amount of both fat and protein! Here are a few high healthy-fat and protein-rich plant-based foods along with some easy and creative recipes!
I don’t think I’m able to go one article without mentioning this plant-based powerhouse! It’s truly one of the best foods for meeting all of your bodies demands. They are also perfect if you’re looking to build muscle. One cup of raw avocado has over four grams of protein, over 35 grams of healthy fat, and over 15 grams of dietary fiber.
Plus, avocado one of the easiest foods to incorporate into your diet. Mix it in with a smoothie, shake, or other beverage, — such as this Kiwi Avocado Juice or this Mint Chip Avocado Milkshake — eat it raw in a salad, — such as this Basil Mustard Salad or this Avocado Grapefruit Jicama Salad — use it to make dessert creations, — such as this Frozen Mini Mojito No Bake Tart or this Chocolate Cake — or go traditional with a guacamole — such as this Spiced Black Bean Guacamole or this Guacamole With Sprouts.
Along with avocado, it’s impossible to get through a plant-based article about balanced eating without mentioning nuts. When it comes to both high fat and high protein, you’ll want to go with almonds. One cup of ground almonds has a whopping 20 grams of protein and 47 grams of mixed healthy fats. On top of that, almonds are also a great source of vitamin E, choline, and folate, as well as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Nuts are an excellent ingredient used to make dairy-free products such as milk, — Almond Milk — cheese, — Baked Almond Feta — and butter, — Almond Butter. But this isn’t the only way to enrich your diet with almonds! Due to their oil content, almonds are excellent for healthy, rich, and creamy desserts such as this Chocolate Ice Cream With Almonds, Cacao Nibs and Black Sea Salt, this Almond Horchata, or this Crunchy Almond Butter Soft Serve Ice Cream.
Chia seeds are not only a complete protein — they have all nine essential amino acids, which have to be consumed via food — but they are also a great source of polyunsaturated fat and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. A 100-gram serving of dried chia seeds has 23.3 grams of polyunsaturated fat, over 17,000 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, over 5,000 milligrams of omega-6 fatty acids, and small amounts of both monounsaturated and saturated fats.
Chia seeds can be consumed raw, but they are most commonly used as a vegan-friendly baking ingredient. They can infuse your favorite desserts with protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and that definitive baked-good squishiness. Try using chia seeds in your favorite bars — such as these Cherry Hemp Oat Bars, these Coconut Date Puffed Millet Bars, or these Blueberry Hazelnut Crumble Bars — to create your favorite pudding — such as this Vanilla Bean Chia Pudding or this Black Magic Grape and Blueberry Chia Pudding — or to bulk up a homemade granola — such as this Grain-Free Coconut Hemp Seed Granola or this Chocolate Granola.
4. Pumpkin Seeds
Next to nuts, seeds are next in line when it comes to getting your daily dose of both healthy fat and protein. While you can’t really go wrong with your choice of seed, pumpkin seeds are definitely at the top fo the list. One cup of pumpkin seeds has 11.9 grams of protein and 12.4 grams of fat including the omegas. Pumpkin seeds are also an excellent source of other vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, folate, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
While one of my favorite ways to eat pumpkin seeds is by the raw handful (with a bit of sea salt!), you can also add them to your salad, your morning oatmeal or porridge, your coconut yogurt, your chia pudding, or pretty much any other meal. With that said, you can also cook with them such as in this Homemade Pumpkin Seed Milk, this Pumpkin Cashew Cheesecake With Coconut Whipped Cream, or this Spicy Chipotle Salad Dressing.
Oats are not only a delicious comfort food and a great way to start the day, but they are also a great source of both protein and fat. One cup of oats has over 26 grams of protein, over 10 grams of healthy fat, and a whopping 16.5 grams of dietary fiber. While protein and fat are essential to muscle strengthening, dietary fiber is necessary to keep the digestive tract healthy and happy and will also keep you feeling full longer.
You may be most familiar with breakfast and dessert oat recipes, but oats can be used in very creative ways outside of these realms, especially when creating meatless recipes — such as in this French Lentil & Mushroom Burgers recipe or this Pumpkin Bean Burger recipe — and gluten-free recipes — such as this Gluten-Free Bread With Pumpkin Seeds or this Nut and Fruit Breakfast Loaf.
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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