This is part 3 of the supplement article series.
If you missed the first 2 parts, you can see part 1 on Post-Workout Supplements here.
And part 2 on the much under-rated magnesium here.
What’s the point of this series?
Well, essentially it’s to clear up some confusion.
Most people fall into two camps when it comes to supplementation –
Camp 1 are completely anti-supplement, and tend to equate any supp with being unnatural, or part of the world of “big bad pharma.”
And camp 2 – well they’re supplement mad. They look for any product they can get their hands on that might accelerate their progress. They neglect food and training in favor for whatever they can get in pill form.
Both these groups are going about things the wrong way.
Supplements can definitely play a role in anyone’s regime, but they shouldn’t be your first focus.
Some supplements though, you’d be crazy to miss out on. And I have one such supplement for you today …
Importance of Omega 3’s
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 10 years, you’ll have heard of the health benefits of fish oil, and likely been given the advice of eating more oily fish.
It’s not necessarily the fish itself, or even the oil contained in it that has the benefits though – it’s one particular type of fat – omega-3.
Omega-3 is actually comprised of two different fats – eicosapentaeonic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA.) Aside from being vital for everyday life and basic human functions, consuming an adequate dose of both of these can offer numerous health benefits.
Omega 3 for better heart health
Chances are you first heard about omega-3s due to the positive impact they can have on preventing (and treating the symptoms of) heart disease.
The way this works, is by lowering the levels of triglycerides in your blood stream, and improving cholesterol profile.
Cholesterol itself is often looked on as a cause, or a major contributing factor in the development of CHD, but this isn’t necessarily the case.
There are several types of cholesterol, including high-density lipoproteins (HDL – generally considered “good cholesterol”) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL – usually considered “bad cholesterol,” though recent research appears to demonstrate that it’s really only the oxidized LDL cholesterol that has a detrimental effect on heart health.)
Increasing omega-3 intake tends to boost your levels of HDL and lower your levels of LDL/ bad cholesterol.
While this may not drive down your total cholesterol levels, it certainly improves your cholesterol profile, thus lowering your risk of heart disease.
Omega 3 to improve arthritis symptoms
Another huge advantage to firing up your fish oil intake is due to anti-inflammatory properties.
This is linked with the cholesterol effect, but fish oils have long been known to reduce inflammation, aiding with joint stiffness and soreness, and not only helping to treat side effects and pain that come along with arthritis, but also aiding with prevention of the disease in the first place.
Omega 3 for depleting DOMS
Linking on again, the anti-inflammatory properties aren’t just useful from a disease and pain point.
As beneficial as training is, working hard and pushing your body to its limits several times a week can take its toll. We all know the feeling at the end of a long training week when we’re feeling beat up and tight, or nearing the end of an intense squat or deadlift cycle, when our joints and muscles are getting achy and sore.
Well, it’s fish oil to the rescue again.
If you have been feeling quite stiff, struggling with mobility, or getting more severe DOMS than usual, try increasing your fish oil dosage and you’ll notice almost instantaneous effects.
Omega 3 for memory
Cognitive function is yet another area where omega-3 excels.
From a day-to-day standpoint of increasing mental clarity and focus, right up to improving long-term memory, and potentially preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia, your brain really will thank you for investing in omega-3s.
Omega 3 for faster fat loss
Eating fat to lose fat might seem a little bizarre.
It certainly goes against the low-fat craze of the 1980s when we were all told to eat a low-fat diet to lose weight and get fitter, but hand on heart, eating more omega-3s can increase your body’s ability to burn fat.
While you still need to be in a calorie deficit, eating a healthy, balanced diet, and training hard to get the fat loss results you crave, adding fish oils can help you out … a lot.
Fish oils can ramp up your body’s lipolytic genes (the genes that burn fat) as well as managing blood sugar levels, leading to better insulin control and blood glucose management.
Read around the Internet, and you’ll find all manner of recommendations for omega-3 intake.
This can range anywhere from just 0.5 grams per day, right up to coaches and trainers who suggest “mega-dosing” with 25 to 30 grams per day.
A good rule of thumb, however, is around 2 to 3 grams per day.
For general health and body composition benefits, it’s unlikely you’ll need more than this. However, if you do choose to get a higher proportion of your fat intake from omega-3s, or add in extra oily fish on top of your supplemental intake, then by all means try it, and see how you fare.
(Obviously checking with a medical professional beforehand, as you should before adding any supplement into your regime.)
Final Pointer …
There is one other type of omega-3 fat – ALA – alpha linolenic acid. This is found in small quantities in oily fish, but is mainly in plant sources, such as nuts and seeds.
Unfortunately, your body cannot synthesize EPA and DHA from ALA, therefore, unless you’re on a plant-based diet, you’re far better off taking a fish oil-based omega-3 supplement, or eating more oily fish, than relying on plant-based alternatives.