Fish oil is one of the very few supplements that can make a claim to being the true Jack of all trades. Regardless of how old you are, and whether you’re physically active or not, there is something that fish oil can help you with.
In fact, given that you do not possess any peculiar allergies, fish oil can quickly be considered an essential supplement for daily consumption, even if only for the maintenance of general health.
Need more convincing that fish oil and Omega-3s are right for you? Then you’re in luck, as we’re about to explore the most noteworthy benefits of fish oil consumption.
Where Do We Get Fish Oil From?
Even though the answer to this question may seem like a no-brainer, there is a little involved in where we get fish oil from. Fish oil isn’t obtained from any random species of fish, but rather cold water fish that possess significantly more fatty tissue.
These fish contain the Omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentoic acid, otherwise known as EPA, and docosahexoenoic acid, better known as DHA. Many of the health benefits obtained from consumption of fish oil is directly attributed to these two Omega-3 fatty acids.
For optimal health, the body requires a balance between the consumption of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are abundantly found in a variety of foods we consume, whereas Omega-3s are considerably rarer.
Many of the benefits of Omega-3s came to light based on observations of Inuit and Mediterranean societies that routinely consume large amounts of fish, and correspondingly high fat, but yet have a very low risk of cardiovascular mortality.
This led to one of the first observed benefits of fish oil consumption.
Supports Healthy Cholesterol Levels
It may sound odd to find out that fat-based substances can actually help improve your cholesterol profile, but a lot depends on the type of that fat. Polyunsaturated fats, to which Omega-3 fatty acids belong, are the best for supporting healthy blood cholesterol profiles, actively improving HDL levels, otherwise known as the good cholesterol, while also improving (reducing) LDL and triglycerides values.
Enhances Post Workout Recovery
A degree of muscle soreness following your workout is inevitable and helps signify that your workout was successful, but should not impair your normal functioning in the days afterwards, or result in such discomfort that you are forced to resort to painkillers.
Fish oil supplementation can actually help accelerate the process of recovery, and lessen soreness felt. Omega-3s have a stabilizing effect on cell membranes, which quickly help to reduce oxidative damage borne by the cells. The resulting reduction in inflammation[i] allows a rapid return of mobility and full function, which means that you are afforded the opportunity to work out again, sooner.
You can see how this is likely to contribute to your progress as there is less downtime spent in discomfort.
Supports Fatty Acid Utilization
One of the primary goal of athletes all across the world is to gain muscle mass while keeping body fat levels low. Given, this isn’t very easy, as the two goals lay on opposite sides of the calorie spectrum. However, you can take solace in the fact that fish oil supplementation can help you use up a little bit more stored body fat[ii].
The use of fish oil increases the rate of fatty acid oxidation, to a degree greater than if you had not used it. Of course, a healthy diet and exercise plan is still mandatory as fish oil alone will not bring about drastic body recomposition.
Improves High Intensity Performance
Performing at a high intensity requires the use of premium grade fuel, which happens to be glucose. During exercise, glucose is primarily obtained from the breakdown of stored muscle or liver glycogen, but those stores are finite and tend to be used up rapidly at the beginning of your work out.
Fish oil supplementation can help your body hold on to some this precious commodity, by first using up some fatty acids and promoting a more sustained release of glucose. This could mean the difference between getting winded and out of energy early in your work out, or finally completing what you set out to do.
Supports Joint Health
As a hard training athlete, bearing heavy loads takes a toll on your joints sooner or later. If you are lucky, this may be only minimal, but there are many others who suffer from debilitating pain that impairs normal activity and their ability to work out.
Unfortunately, joints don’t often heal themselves just like that. Rest helps, but effective supplementation is often a necessity. The omega 3 contained in fish oil can reduce inflammation and even indirectly suppress the activation[iii] of immune cells that mediate the sensation of pain and tenderness.
This can be bad a bad thing if you are immunocompromised, but for the purpose of this discussion we will assume the benefit outweighs any possible risk.
Supports A Positive Mood
The mind is arguably one of the most important weapons you have when it comes to progression in the gym. Far too many people stagnate for years on end (in the gym and elsewhere) simply because the mind has not conceived how far they need to go.
Depressive illness is a beast that can kill motivation amongst even the best of us, causing a cycle of apathy and lethargy. This is, of course, is going to affect your workouts since you won’t be interested in the least about doing so.
Fish oil supplementation has shown positive signs thus far in helping to manage depressive illness[iv], though it works best in conjunction with prescribed medication.
Straight off the bat it is safe to assume that you need to be increasing the amount of omega-3 fats you consume. As an athlete, you get more than enough omega-6 fats, but being pro-inflammatory in nature, you need to balance that with the anti-inflammatory omega-3.
Try to shoot for 3g daily, and up to 6g depending on how much omega-6 you consume. Don’t miss out on all fish oil has to offer you!
[i] Ochi E, Tsuchiya Y, Yanagimoto K. Effect of eicosapentaenoic acids-rich fish oil supplementation on motor nerve function after eccentric contractions. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;14:23. Published 2017 Jul 12. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0176-9
[ii] Peoples GE, McLennan PL, Howe PR, Groeller H. Fish oil reduces heart rate and oxygen consumption during exercise. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2008 Dec;52(6):540-7. doi: 10.1097/FJC.0b013e3181911913. PubMed PMID: 19034030.
[iii] Fenton JI, Hord NG, Ghosh S, Gurzell EA. Immunomodulation by dietary long chain omega-3 fatty acids and the potential for adverse health outcomes. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2013;89(6):379–390. doi:10.1016/j.plefa.2013.09.011
[iv] Grosso G, Galvano F, Marventano S, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids and depression: scientific evidence and biological mechanisms. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2014;2014:313570. doi:10.1155/2014/313570