Omega-3s are often associated with brain and heart health, but did you know they can also significantly impact athletic performance, recovery, and weight loss. This powerful supplement can be an incredible asset and compliment your training and fitness journey, all while improving your overall health and wellness. Unfortunately, less than 2% of North Americans actually consume the minimum amount required for general health. Below are 5 ways Omega-3s can help improve your performance.1. Reduction of acute and chronic inflammation
The essential fatty acids EPA and DHA found in fish and algae oil have been proven to be anti-inflammatory. Specifically, the EPA is largely responsible for correcting Omega-6 (inflammatory) and Omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) ratios. This will have a dramatic impact on your over-all inflammatory levels, both acute and chronic. This will have a dramatic effect on your overall energy levels, and it will provide support for your bones and joints. Working out is an inflammatory activity. You break your muscles down, hence the inflammation; they heal, recover, and you can train hard again. However, without proper inflammatory control, you can not heal and recover as quickly, and therefore you will hinder your overall performance. Your joints will also suffer and wear down over time, especially if you already suffer from conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or have a pre-existing sports injury. This study specifically demonstrates how Omega-3s reduce muscle soreness and swelling and improve recovery.2. Omega-3s will help your muscles grow
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to increase protein synthesis, which is the process your body goes through when it turns the protein you eat into the fuel your muscles need to grow and stay strong. In a study of nine healthy men and women, Washington University researchers gave 4 grams per day of purified fish oil for a period of eight weeks to evaluate the impact on the rate of muscle protein synthesis. They found that omega-3s increased the subjects' muscle-building response to insulin and amino acids, both of which are released in the body during exercise. A higher amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the muscle cell primes it for protein synthesis. In other words, the more optimized your Omega-3 index is, the better your ability to develop and maintain muscle mass.3. A healthy heart leads to better performance
It has been well documented that Omega-3 can have a significant impact on your heart health. But not just your health, it’s overall efficiency and function. This means a lower resting heart rate as it becomes more efficient at pumping your blood to your entire body. A study showed that fish oil might reduce heart rate, resulting in a reduction of whole-body and myocardial oxygen demand during exercise, without a decrease in performance. This means you can hit the high-intensity workout at the same pace and require less oxygen to do so.
In this study researchers evaluated 16 cyclists randomly assigned to receive 8 grams of fish oil per day or an olive oil placebo.
"Part of omega 3s' heart-health benefit is that they decrease heart rate and the amount of oxygen your body burns through every minute," said Kari Ikemoto, a registered dietitian who commented on this study in a Men's Journal article. "On game day, that's huge. It means that your body needs less oxygen during every minute of exercise than does your competitor. It takes less energy to run a marathon, kick a goal, or make a tackle."4. Improve the Brain and Improve your performance
Our brains are made of 60% fats, and of that 60%, 15% of it is made up of DHA. So we often consider Omega-3s vital for brain development or recovery from concussions. But have you ever considered Omega-3s for improving reflex or response time? DHA has been proven to effective in the stimulation of neurogenesis in the brain. Research has already shown that omega-3s are highly sought after for their cognitive support. They have also, however, been proven to improve reaction times significantly.
In one study, 24 players from two Spanish female soccer teams were given 3.5 grams per day of either DHA-rich fish oil or olive oil over 4 weeks of training. Two measurements (pre-and post-treatment) of complex reaction time and precision were taken. Participants had to press different buttons and pedals with left and right hands and feet, or stop responding, according to visual and auditory stimuli. After 4 weeks of supplementation with high potency fish oil, there was a significant improvement in these female elite soccer players' neuromotor function.5. Use a Healthy Fat to burn Unwanted Fat
By Optimizing your Omega-3 index and improving your body's ability for protein synthesis, you will naturally build more muscle. This muscle, in turn, will help to burn unwanted fats. An optimized Omega-3 index will also improve your body's ability to burn fat as an energy source and not be dependant on carbohydrates. A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition took 44 men and women and gave either 4 grams of high potency fish oil or 4 grams of safflower oil. Following just 6 weeks of consumption, results demonstrated that the fish oil group had significantly increased muscle mass and decreased fat mass.
Beware, however. Not all Omega-3s are created equal. You always want to make sure that your Omega-3s come from a single source, and small fish is best. This ensures that there are little to no environmental contaminants like PCBs, Dioxins, heavy metals, or mercury. Third-party testing is a must; IFOS (international fish oil standards) is the gold standard. You need to ensure that your Omega-3s are in their most natural triglyceride form and not in an ethyl ester form. And you also want to make sure that you are getting a therapeutic dose of Omega-3s. Most products are severely underdosed and will not give you enough Omegas to achieve the desired results. A maintenance dose will start at 2,500mg of combined EPA and DHA, and to reduce chronic inflammation and recovery, you may want to consider 5,000mg's and up. Learn more about choosing a quality omega-3 here.