No doubt you’ve heard of fish oil or omega-3 and some of the benefits around health.
But, what about performance benefits as an athlete?
Will fish oil help me with recovery and soreness?
Omega 3 fats reduce inflammation by counteracting free radicals which have the potential to damage cells. Exercise though also produces free radicals – which are an important part of adaptation – but in excess can also cause damage, ongoing soreness and pain. Athletes that consume omega-3 supplements have been shown to reduce the length of muscle soreness or DOMS post workout.
Will they help with endurance though?
Flexible, smooth blood vessels are associated with good health and low levels of inflammation. For athletes, the ability to pump blood freely around the body is clearly advantageous in delivering oxygen to working muscles – a key for endurance and performance. If you’re asthmatic there’s good news too, omega-3 supplementation helps reduce airway inflammation and improve lung function.
What about strength?
Yep, that too. Research shows that omega-3 acids help decrease muscle breakdown post exercise, but also increase protein synthesis. In other words, help convert protein consumed in your diet to muscle mass gains (when combined with time in the gym obviously).
I’ve heard fish oil is good for the brain – is this true?
Absolutely! Omega-3 fats are important not just for the brain, but are key in heart, eye, joint and skin health too. The brain is an interesting one, being made of 60% fat it's easy to see the importance of omega-3 fats in brain cognition, visual signalling, reaction times and even mood. Research also supports omega-3 as being key in supporting concussion/brain injuries, with post-concussion recommendations from many medical professionals including a very high dosage of omega-3 fats.
Won’t taking oil make me put on weight?
Highly unlikely. In fact most likely the opposite. Reducing circling levels of body inflammation seems to make fat burning more efficient and reduce fat mass.
Is fish oil different from other types of oils?
Omega-3 fats found in fish oils are essential polyunsaturated fats, meaning we can’t make them ourselves and need to include them in our diet. Other foods do contain omega-3 fats – walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds – but fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines are the richest sources. Omega-3s come in long chain fatty acids; eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), as well as the short chain form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). EPA and DHA are found in fish, fish oil supplements, and algae. The short-chain form, ALA, is found in plant sources like nuts, flax seed, chia seeds.
Do I really need supplements?
Even if you eat a lot of fish and walnuts, you may not get enough omega-3 fats to counteract levels of inflammation and support optimal performance and recovery. Studies of athletic populations show low omega-3 status is very common. Smart supplementation (high quality, clean, trusted source) is likely to benefit most people.