A proper balance of omega-3s and omega-6s is vital for good overall health. Not only do omega-3s provide benefits for the heart, they also help support athletic performance and recovery.
Fish and fish oil supplements are the richest source of omega-3s — the main two are EPA and DHA.
Fish oil consumption consistently results in lower levels of inflammation. High levels of inflammation can counteract some of exercise’s positive effects on insulin sensitivity and other metabolic benefits. If inflammation remains elevated after exercise, this can negatively impact muscle soreness, tissue repair and other aspects of recovery. Omega-3 fats have also been shown to improve blood flow to muscles during exercise, decrease muscle soreness by 35%, reduce swelling, and increase range of motion after exercise. For this reason Omega 3’s may help speed the recovery process after exercise.
Studies also show that increasing omega-3 levels enhances insulin sensitivity, which improves fat burning and reduces fat storage. Emerging work is even showing that omega-3s may regulate muscle growth and help during extended periods of rest by slowing the loss in both muscle and bone.
In recent studies, omega-3s in combination with exercise where shown to maximize fat loss. In addition, subjects who supplemented with fish oil decreased blood triglycerides by 14%, increased good cholesterol by 10% and improved the functioning of blood vessels. All these lines of research on omega-3s point to better recovery and improved health for athletes.
A general guideline for omega-3 intake is to aim for 500 mg of EPA plus DHA per day, and an optimal level could be 1,000-2,000 mg per day.
Taking omega-3 fats with an antioxidant may also be a good idea since omega-3 fats are highly unsaturated and prone to being broken down by reactive oxygen species (free radicals). Studies have shown synergy between omega-3 fats and vitamin E.
Dominick Walsh is a blogger for Performance Nutrition and TMRzoo.com and covers all men’s health topics and exercise issues including protein powders, diets, weight loss, weight lifting supplements, fat burners and supplement reviews. Dominick’s columns cover everything you need to know about your pre, during and post workout nutrition.