Maybe you’ve heard the adage that you shouldn’t mix fat and carbohydrates in the same meal. Many people believe that to maximize fat loss, you should never mix the two together. Is this true? I’m going to break down the pros and cons of mixing fat and carbohydrates in the same meal, give you my own opinion, and then let you make the decision for yourself.
Cons of Mixing Fat and Carbohydrates
The explanation behind this theory is that by mixing two different energy sources at the same time, your body will only use one of them, and store the other as fat. Why is this? Well, as you know, carbohydrates illicit an insulin response. Insulin is one of your body’s most powerful fat storage hormones.
Being that insulin is a fat storage hormone, how are you going to be losing fat at the same time you’re storing it? If you are going to be eating fat and carbohydrates in the same meal, carbohydrates are going to take priority. They are going to cause your body to release insulin. And as a result, the fat you just ate is going to be stored as fat. Or so the theory goes…
Pros of Mixing Fat and Carbohydrates
On the other hand, there is the theory that mixing fat and carbohydrates in the same meal can actually be beneficial. These people believe that by adding fat to your meal, it slows down digestion enough that the insulin response is muted. By keeping insulin levels low, it allows your body to mobilize and use fatty acids from both your meal and your body fat stores.
Will Mixing Fat and Carbohydrates Prevent Fat Loss?
My opinion is that both theories hold their weight, and that you can take the ideas from both of them to formulate a diet plan that is optimized for fat loss. I believe that the whole idea of not mixing fat and carbohydrates comes more from the idea of eating high fat, high sugar processed foods. This is no doubt a recipe for fat storage. Not only will they illicit a huge insulin response that will prevent fat burning, but the fat you eat from processed food is usually highly saturated or trans fat, and will be even more likely to be stored as fat.
My personal theory is that your diet plan should have a mixture of meals that are carbohydrates, fat, and protein, and also carbohydrates and protein, and even just protein, fat, and veggies. Whichever macronutrient makeup you decide to use, each one has a lot to do with the idea of nutrient timing. With nutrient timing you can influence different effects on your body by changing the macronutrient makeup of your meals.
For example, your 5 meals during the day could look something like this to take advantage of metabolic effects:
- Meal 1 (post workout) – carb / protein / veggie
- Meal 2 – healthy fat / carb/ protein/ veggie
- Meal 3 – healthy fat / carb/ protein/ veggie
- Meal 4 – healthy fat / carb/ protein/ veggie
- Meal 5 – healthy fat / protein / veggie
After your workout, you want to replenish glycogen stores and give your body protein to jump start protein synthesis. It makes sense then to limit fat from this meal. For the rest of your meals, you want a nice steady supply of carbohydrates to help metabolize fat, and provide you with energy throughout the day. Then at night, we can start to taper off the carbohydrates to help promote the release of growth hormone while we sleep. Growth hormone is a powerful muscle building and fat burning hormone.
By combining carbohydrates (veggies and fiber), fat, and protein in these meals, you mute the effects of insulin enough to enable you to mobilize fatty acids. Your body is constantly storing fat and releasing fat. You don’t just go through the day storing fat and then suddenly you switch over to fat loss. There is a constant storage and release of fat, that at the end of the day, will be determined by several factors. These include your total energy balance, your exercise program, and the timing and macronutrient makeup of your meals.
So don’t be afraid of mixing fat and carbohydrates in the same meal. However, be mindful of why this can be a problem, especially with processed foods, and use this knowledge to further fine tune your diet program to maximize fat loss.