Fish oil supplementation is not a new thing.
It seems like everyone I talk to has taken a fish oil supplement at least once in their life because of a) their doctor told them to or b) someone else was doing it. (While I don’t condone either option without a reasoning or research prior to taking something, the doctor route at least has some merit to it.) More than likely people don’t know what they were taking the fish oil for or they didn’t know what to look for in a fish oil. Thankfully, this is where I come in.
Like essential amino acids (See: BCAAs), there are some fats that that are deemed essential and the body cannot produce. And you guessed it, they need to be supplied through your diet.
The oft thrown around term Omega-3 fatty acids are these essential fats and are the fish oil supplements you take. So to not confuse you, I’ll be using fish oil and omega-3s interchangeably throughout this kick ass post.
The benefits of Omega-3 are as follows with some ridiculous but accurate similes, metaphors and analogies:
CAN LOWER TRIGLYCERIDE LEVELS
Ever look in the mirror and seen areas that could use a little toning up? Well you are looking at your triglycerides. Triglycerides are the end product of breaking down of fats that you eat. High triglycerides can lead to heart disease. Omega-3s act as the Ump throwing the triglycerides from your blood stream baseball game.
LUBRICATES THE JOINTS
Inflammation can cause your joints to be stiff or sore. Think of omega-3s as the KY Jelly for your joints.
EASE STIFFNESS FOR RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS PATIENTS
Like the point above, arthritis sufferers have quiet a bit of inflammation in their joints. This causes pain and the inability to bend the joints. Omega-3s are He-Man to inflammation’s Skeletor.
VISUAL AND NEUROLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT IN INFANTS
Omega-3s are used throughout the body in the cell membranes and affect the cell receptors. All major components of a developing baby’s brain and nervous system. Omega-3s are the NZT for your baby.
LOWERS INFLAMMATION IN ASTHMA SUFFERERS
Asthma is an inflammation of the tubes that carry air to the lungs. Guess what I’m going to say? Yes! Omega-3s lower inflammation so asthma sufferers can rejoice! Omega-3s are the Inspector Gadget to asthma’s Dr. Claw.
HAS POSITIVE EFFECTS ON GRADUAL MEMORY LOSS (ALZHEIMER’S AND DEMENTIA)
On the opposite end of the age spectrum, the older population has to deal with memory loss. When a person has Alzheimer’s, the nerves in the brain die. Supplementing with fish oil can help keep the nerves alive. Omega-3s are like weightlifting for your aging mind.
AIDE IN FAT LOSS
While not getting into the grizzly details of the mechanism of reactions, omega-3s have shown to increase insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation (surprise, surprise), and help with the oxidation of fat. All good things if you are trying to look sexified. Omega-3s are the utility men of your fat loss team.
CAN HELP THE HEART BEAT NORMALLY
Irregular heart beats cause most of the 500,000 cardiac related deaths per year. Omega-3s have been shown to help to steady the heart beat like your favorite EDM song. Omega-3s act as the conductor to your heart.
HELPS WITH POST GYM SORENESS
Anyone who has done anything remotely physical has felt delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS is just your body responding through inflammation to the physical work you just did and trying to repair the muscles. Lower inflammation, lower pain. Omega-3s will help you not fall down the stairs after leg day.
HELPS WITH DRY SKIN AND SKIN RELATED DISEASES (I.E. ECZEMA)
Like the lubrication of joints, your skin also become lubricated through supplementation of omega-3s. And like ADHD sufferers example, skin related diseases symptoms can be lowered by the effect on genetic markers. Omega-3s are the silencer on your eczema gun.
SLOW DOWN MUSCLE BREAKDOWN
Dr. Mauro Di Pasquala is nutrition and sports medicine expert. He says omega-3s slow down or inhibit muscle breakdown. Bodybuilders, start supplementing. Omega-3s are Hulk Hogan to muscle breakdown’s Sgt. Slaughter.
INCREASE GROWTH HORMONE
The same guy that brought you that awesomely helpful tip above says that omega-3s help form prostaglandin E1, which helps increase growth hormone. Increase growth hormone= more gainz. Seriously, bodybuilders get on some fish oil. Omega-3s is to growth hormone what alcohol is to picking up ladies.
FANTASTIC- SO WHAT THE FUDGE ARE OMEGA-3S?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of essential fatty acids used within the body for various things. They are polyunsaturated fats which is very good for the body. Like amino acids, there are essential and non essential omega-3s. The essential ones, the ones I’m talking about in this post, are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acids (DHA).
EPA and DHA are most prevalent in marine food sources like fish. So here is a list or omega-3 rich foods:
- Salmon Fish Oil
- Cod Liver Oil
- Chia Seeds
- Salmon (wild-caught)
- White Fish
- Hemp Seeds
- Egg Yolks
In looking into the Okinawa, Japan culture (where most of the oldest people in the world reside) their diets are heavy in omega-3s. Their diets consist mostly of fish, sea veggies and fresh produce. Other cultures that eat a lot of omega-3s are Mediterranean countries like Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkish and France. These diets contain a lot more omega-3s than an American diet and is partially why they can still fit into skinny jeans and we have to wear sweatpants. It also plays a role in why Americans have a higher risk of heart disease compared to these Mediterranean countries.
Americans tend to be higher in omega-6 fatty acids which do the opposite of omega-3s. Omega 6s promote inflammation. While it is necessary to have some inflammation for natural processes, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Omega 6s are found mostly in cooking oils. Since a majority of what we eat contains omega-6s we are often deficient in omega 3s. The ideal ratio is a 1:1 of omega 6 to omega 3. Up to a 4:1 (omega 6 to omega 3) ratio is still considered healthy. Tracking this ratio will be a pain, so try eating more fish and supplementing with fish oil. Lower your fried foods and anything cooked in oils consumption and you’ll be alright.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A FISH OIL
Like anything else that’s popular there are hundreds of different brands at varying concentrations. And of course all the brands are “The Best Brand”. So how do you find your way through the forest of best brands? With these 4 simple things to look at:
- Total amount of Omega-3 per serving
Look for at least 1 gram of Omega-3 per serving. Usually, the serving size is 2 pills, so if you want to take 4g (see Dosage below) that’s 8 pills a day. So consider how much you want to consume a day, but look for at least 1g or 1000mg of omega-3 per serving.
- Serving Size
Sometimes companies will put on the front that you can get 1250mg of omega-3 per serving. Then you flip the bottle over and you are taking 16 pills for a serving. Pay attention to the nutrition label serving size on the back and disregard the front label.
- Amount of EPA and DHA
The EPA and DHA are the reason you are taking the fish oil so this should be high on your list to look at. Look for a higher percentage of EPA and DHA in the total omega-3 amount. Try to keep the ratio of DHA and EPA close, I see a lot of supplements that have disproportionately higher EPA to DHA ratios. Stick to a higher EPA and DHA ratio to the total omega-3 amount and you’ll be aces. Higher quality products will have a higher EPA/DHA to omega-3 ratio.
- Look for the word “Wild” and “Farm”
The last thing to look for is if the source of the fish oil was wild or farm raised. Farm raised fish, mostly salmon, have a higher mercury and other contaminate percentage. Stick to wild sourced fish oil. If it doesn’t specify on the bottle, put the bottle down. Information like that is a selling point and if they aren’t willing to display that information that only means it’s farm sourced.
SO HOW MUCH FISH OIL SHOULD I TAKE?
Right now there is no recommended daily amount per day for omega-3. Thankfully there have been studies that show 2-4 grams per day to be optimal for all the benefits listed above. Spread the dosages out over the course of the day, so like with breakfast and then with dinner so you don’t have to choke down multiple pills at a time.
If you are consuming salmon and other sources of omega-3s already in your diet, opt for the lower dosage.
The benefits of fish oil can be seen within a week or two. Don’t expect immediate results.
Like everything else bodybuilders do, more is better. A much higher than normal dose of fish oil maybe beneficial for body composition. Charles Poliquin, a world renowned strength coach, recommends his athletes get 30g of fish oil per day. I do not condone this because there hasn’t been any research with dosages this high. Consult your primary care doctor before you decide to do something stupid please.
SIDE EFFECTS AND STORAGE
The side effects of taking a fish oil supplement are relatively low for everyone, including pregnant and breast feeding women (See the infant bullet above). A high dose, greater than 3g per day, might keep blood from clotting. So if you cut yourself, have ample band-aides around. You won’t bleed out from a paper cut, but if you noticed there is more blood than usual, tone it back a little.
Also, due to the anti-inflammatory effects of fish oil, your immune response might be lowered to fight infection. This is especially true if you are taking an immune system suppressing medication (if you’ve had an organ transplant).
Outside of the above side effects, there are some inconveniences that come with fish oil supplementation like fishy burps, nausea, loose stool (yummy) and rash. Usually these are side effects of the fish oil oxidizing. So if you have fish oil, keep it in the fridge. This will slow the rate of oxidation and remove all these little inconveniences.
Fish oil, along with vitamin D are the only things I take daily. Being an American and not having access to fresh, wild caught fish puts me at a disadvantage in the race to stay alive as long as the Okinawa people. If you are looking to get into a pair of skinny jeans like the Mediterranean people or just help reduce your risk of heart disease here is a good fish oil to take a look at:
Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega (This is what I am currently using)
Disclosure: To be transparent, I am an affiliate of bodybuilding.com. So if you purchase something through the links above, I get a cut with no extra cost to you. This helps keep my lights on, so I and my wife thank you. The products I put up are not to make a quick buck on my end, I used and vetted all these products to give you the highest quality. If I recommended products I didn’t use I would lose the trust of my readers and then I’d be left alone and in the dark.
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