High-fat diets like Atkins and keto have stood in the spotlight over the past several years. But while healthy fats have a bevy of benefits for your body, eating too much fat each day can spell trouble for your energy, digestion and sleep.
Fats are part of a healthy diet, but it's totally possible to go a little overboard. How to know if you've crossed the line? Look for the following signs.
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1. You're Feeling Bloated or Gassy
High-fiber foods like broccoli and Brussels sprouts tend to get the blame when it comes to gas and bloating. But eating too much fat can cause the same symptoms, Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, registered dietitian, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Fats are hard for your body to break down, causing them to ferment longer in the stomach, according to the Mayo Clinic. As a result, they can often cause belching, bloating or gas.
When fat-rich foods are also high in fiber, they can be even more taxing on your digestive system, especially when you eat a lot of them. A single avocado, for instance, has about 14 grams of fiber, which is roughly half your daily intake, according to the USDA. That's why eating too much avocado in one sitting might cause discomfort.
2. You Have Loose Stools
No one loves an unpleasant trip to the bathroom. But if you overindulge in fats, you may experience loose stools, according to Harvard Health Publishing. When the fatty foods you eat aren't properly absorbed, your colon can produce excess fluid, causing diarrhea.
Generally, foods higher in fat are also lower in fiber (think: fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, fried foods). The fiber in vegetables, fruit and whole grains adds bulk to your stool, according to the Mayo Clinic. So, your loose stools may not be just the result of a high-fat diet but a lack of fiber as well.
3. You're Feeling Sluggish
Although your body burns fat for energy, eating a diet high in fat could cause you to feel sluggish or tired during the day.
Indeed, eating high-fat meals is associated with fatigue, regardless of a person's overall health and lifestyle habits, according to a February 2016 Nutrients study. After observing the diets and fatigue levels of 784 adults, researchers found those who ate more fat had higher levels of daytime drowsiness.
4. You're Gaining Weight
Although high-fat diets are often used for weight loss, you can certainly still gain weight if you overindulge — and that's often the case, Taub-Dix says.
This comes down to the calories you're taking in. Carbohydrates and protein both contain 4 calories per gram, per Harvard Health Publishing. Fat, however, is more calorie-dense, with 9 calories per gram.
Whenever you eat in a calorie surplus (eating more calories than you burn), your body will gain weight, regardless of which macronutrient (fat, protein or carbohydrates) you're over-consuming. But considering fats are higher in calories, they can push you into a calorie surplus more easily than protein or carbs.
5. You Have Restless Sleep
Although eating too much fat can cause you to feel drowsy or sluggish during the day, you may also experience difficulty falling or staying asleep, too, Taub-Dix says.
"Fat is a nutrient that takes the longest to break down in your system," she says. "Since it sits in your system longer , it can wind up impacting your rest and disrupting your sleep."
When you sleep, your body naturally slows digestion, which is why most experts advise against eating heavy meals before bed. High-fat meals or foods, specifically, can make it harder to fall asleep, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Diets high in fat can even make it harder to stay asleep, according to a small January 2016 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. After observing the sleep patterns of 26 adults, researchers found that those who ate foods low in fiber and high in saturated fat woke up the most throughout the night and had the least restful sleep.
- Mayo Clinic: "Belching, Gas and Bloating: Tips for Reducing Them"
- USDA: "Avocados"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet"
- Nutrients: "Associations between Macronutrient Intake and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea as Well as Self-Reported Sleep Symptoms: Results from a Cohort of Community Dwelling Australian Men"
- Mayo Clinic: "Will a Bedtime Snack Help me Sleep Better?"
- Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: "Fiber and Saturated Fat Are Associated with Sleep Arousals and Slow Wave Sleep"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calorie counting made easy"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Is something in your diet causing diarrhea?"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.