All cells have an element of fat in and around the cell membrane. They also utilise these same fats in the eyes, adrenal glands, sex organs, inner ear and most importantly the brain. Without the inclusion if these unique fats a lot of important metabolic processes would fail.
Of particular concern to the athlete is their role in energy transformation and oxygen use, both of which are critical to good performance. The body is very capable of producing the majority of the fatty acids required. It does this by adding carbon chains together, inserting double bonds where required and shortening longer carbon chains. However, there are two fatty acids that it cannot manufacture, owing to an inability to put the double bonds in the correct place. These are the essential fatty acids linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid. These are both 18 carbons long and must be provided in your diet. For athletes these are the most important fats, and in theory they can fulfil all their nutritional needs.
Linoleic acid is classified as an omega 6 oil, owing to the position of its first double bond. Good sources of this oil are walnuts, sunflower seeds, sunflower oil, wheatgerm and canola seeds. Alpha-linolenic acid is classified as omega 3 for the same reason.. the position of the first double bond. Good sources are oily fish, whitebait, herrings, linseed oil, rapeseed oil and soya beans. If you are looking to use these as sources of essential fats then they should be cold pressed oils and not have undergone any type of processing. Any processing reduces the health-giving properties of these oils.
After looking at saturated fats and trans fatty acids it has been concluded that these have no role to play as far as the athlete is concerned. With this in mind.. what should athletes be consuming? The simple answer is the essential fats.