Determining Appropriate Fat Intake

We all know that natural trainers need to make sure that they consume adequate dietary fat in order to optimize endogenous T levels. However, I can’t recall ever knowing or hearing exactly what is “adequate.” For instance, take the spectrum of Berardi’s macronutrient recommendations with three sample 180 lb. T-Men, each of whom has a different caloric intake necessary for growth:

50C-35P-15F: T-Man #1 - insulin sensitive. Typically, I would associate this level of sensitivity with someone who is relatively, if not completely, ectomorphic. In other words, they need a lot of calories to grow. Protein is held constant somewhere between 1 and 2g/lb and increasing fat intake can only be beneficial to a certain point. As such, once this point is reached, all further calories must come from carbs. As a result, fat as a percentage of calories drops significantly. Suppose he needs 3,700 calories for growth. At his percentages, this works out to 463g carbs, 324g protein, 62g fat.

40P-30C-30F: T-Man #2 - A middle of the road type. Decent sensitivity, normal maintenance calories. Since fewer carbs are necessary overall, fat as a percentage of calories is higher (in spite of the fact that the total gram amount may remain the same). Let’s say he needs 3,400 calories for growth. At his percentages, this works out to 263g carbs, 350g protein, and 116g fat.

50P-35F-15C: T-Man #3 - Low insulin sensitivity. Gains fat easily, even with only a slight increase in calories. Carb intake must be closely monitored, so fat as a percentage of total calories is much higher. This last dude only 3,100 calories for growth. At his percentages, this works out to 116g carbs, 388g protein, and 121g fat. Obviously, protein may be a bit high, but I’m trying to make a point hereJ

Okay, all that being said, you can see a huge difference (59g) between T-Man #1 and T-Man #3 in terms of fat intake. I find it hard to believe that just because one person tolerates carb well and another doesn’t, that the amount of fat needed in their diets to support endogenous T production would be drastically different. Call me crazy, but I just don’t see how insulin sensitivity relates to the endocrine system. So what’s my point? Why do we continue to use 30% as the “gold standard” for fat intake when natural? Honestly, 30% doesn’t say much; I know that my caloric intake varies between 1900-2000 while cutting and 4,200 while bulking, and 30% is much different at each intake. Here’s what I’m getting at: when recommending a protein intake, we always base it on g/lb, so why not do the same with fat? I’m sure that it would vary (much as protein intake does), but it seems a lot more productive to set forth a gram amount rather than a percentage. Then, when planning a diet, you would start with XXXg protein, add YYYg fat, and then fill in the rest with carbs to reach your ideal macro ratios.

The reason I bring this up is that I am in the process of using 4-AD-EC to transition from cutting to bulking. I’m using a macro breakdown that is approximately 43C-40P-17F. All my fat (about 65-70g total) is coming from 20 fish oil caps and my regular foods. My energy levels are up, I’m sleeping like a baby, and I have no problem keeping up with my hectic schedule (especially the much increased activity level at work). What’s strange is that carbs usually have the opposite effect on me; I get lethargic during the day. As such, I’ve always believed that my insulin sensitivity was average at best, so I have stuck with a 35P, 35C, 30F type diet. However, I’m thinking that the combination of my increased activity level, and the substantial cardio I did while cutting, 900mg daily of ALA, and the fact that EDT is very glycogen depleting has improved my insulin sensitivity markedly. I know that it goes against the rule of keeping fat at 30% or more of total calories while bulking naturally, but I’m seriously considering just going to 40C-35P-25F or staying with the 40-40-20 approach. My thought is that because total calories will be higher (3100-3400, depending on the day) and the amount of fat needed to support endogenous T production will remain constant, then fat as a percentage of total calories must drop slightly. I find it hard to believe that more fat equals more T beyond a certain point; I just don’t know what that point is! Plus, I just don’t think very highly of consuming 30-35g fat at one sitting. Essentially, I would just be lowering protein a bit and increasing fat to compensate. I’m not even close to being what I would call “insulin sensitive.” I don’t see, however, why I can’t be somewhere in between outstanding insulin sensitivity and average. Any thoughts? Is 15-20% of total calories from fat enough to make great gains naturally?

This whole situation also relates to Jason’s post about long-term goals. I remember him saying that because we’re constantly changing things up, we lose track of maintenance calories and have no idea what has proven most effective for us in terms of diet, training, and supplementation. In my case, I’ve not only lost track of my maintenance calories (partially due to my change in activity level), but I’ve essentially forgotten how to bulk without Mag-10 or 4-AD-EC (gained 16 lbs. LBM and lost 3.5 lbs. fat since mid-May), even though I’ve had tremendous success with it in the past.

I think this would make for a great discussion. The idea of recommending fat intake based on bodyweight as we do with protein seems to have a lot more merit that simply spitting out percentages. So, does anyone have a specific number of grams fat that they consume in relation to bodyweight? I might just be sputtering silly ideas out my butt here, so let me know…