Dietary fat and sports nutrition: a primer

J Sports Sci Med. 2004 Sep 1;3(3):106-17. eCollection 2004 Sep.


The general public's view of macronutrients has undergone sweeping changes in recent years. Dietary fats are a key example. Since the anti-fat health education initiatives of the 1980s and early 1990s, certain dietary fats have been increasingly recognized as actually beneficial to health. Athletes, like the mainstream populace, are now getting the message that wise dietary fat (triacylglycerol) choices offer essential fatty acids, blood lipid management, maintained endocrine and immune function, inflammation control, metabolic effects and even potential body composition and performance benefits. Toward this end, many companies now sell specialty dietary fat supplements and recognized health authorities have begun recommending them to certain populations. This review will cover data regarding the physiology, dietary needs, food sources, and potential benefits and risks most relevant to athletes. Practical suggestions for incorporating healthy fats will be made. Both food-source and supplemental intakes will be addressed with interrelationships to health throughout. Key PointsNutrition education initiatives over recent years have sent contrasting messages on dietary fat to the public.Variations in chemical structure among triacylglycerols and their component fatty acids induce very different biological effects.Manipulating fat as a percentage of total kcal affects athletes.Athletes have special needs for which dietary fat may prove beneficial.

Keywords: Dietary fat; fatty acids; inflammation; metabolism; recovery; triacylglycerol.

Publication types

  • Review