High fat and high cholesterol foods are delicious, but generally, they are high in calories and may make you fat. When we enjoy delicious meals that are high in fat and cholesterol, we are increasing the risks of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. However, does it really mean that we should not eat this kind of food at all? Fat and cholesterol, although they have such a bad reputation, are actually essential to life. The real problem is overconsumption, and too much of anything is bad. Since most people tend to consume too much fat and cholesterol, the logical solution is to use up the extra!
The combination of resistance exercise and dietary cholesterol has been studied to promote muscle health in our laboratory (Human Countermeasures Laboratory at Texas A&M University). Participants taking high cholesterol supplements, from egg yolk, had better muscle strength after 12 weeks of resistance exercise training. Importantly, there were no differences in the blood cholesterol levels between different supplementation groups: high, medium or low. That is, even when we eat foods that are high in cholesterol, blood cholesterol levels may maintain normal with sufficient resistance exercise.
Cholesterol is an essential substance that enables our bodies to produce hormones, make cell membranes, and do many other necessary tasks, including repairing muscle damages that may result from resistance exercise. Our bodies repair the damage using many nutrients and hormones, building bigger and stronger muscles for later heavy use. In this process, cholesterol plays important roles in being the stock for making new muscle cell membranes, smoothing and facilitating the cell signaling pathways, and producing hormones that evoke the cell regeneration. Therefore, cholesterol should be considered as an ingredient of post-exercise supplements for maintaining muscle health.
Fat in our bloodstream also gets a lot of bad press and is found to be associated with many chronic diseases. Our study showed that after 12 weeks of resistance exercise training, blood triglycerides (a form of fat) decreased by 10% 48 hours after a bout of resistance exercise. That is, resistance exercise training may increase the ability of our bodies to burn fat and therefore cause our bodies to prefer using fat rather than glucose as the fuel for activities. Thus, excess circulation of fatty substances may provide energy for performing resistance exercise and daily-life activities.
In this time of high fat and high cholesterol diets, resistance exercise may be a good solution for turning the bad into good. Dietary cholesterol may contribute to better muscle health while fat can provide energy when combined with adequate resistance exercise training. By regularly performing resistance exercise, you are likely to get good-looking muscle tone, better strength, and a healthier body while enjoying the delicious foods you really like!
1. Riechman, S. E., Lee, C. W., Chikani, G., Chen, V. C. W., & Lee, T. V. (2009). Cholesterol and skeletal muscle health. World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics, 100, 71-79. http://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/235713
2. Tang, J. E., Hartman, J. W., & Phillips, S. M. (2006). Increased muscle oxidative potential following resistance training induced fibre hypertrophy in young men. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 31(5), 495-501. http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/pdf/10.1139/h06-026
This article was originally published in the Sydney & J.L. Huffines Institute for Sports Medicine & Human Performance website (2013)