What is omega-3?
Omega-3 usually refer to fish oil derived from oily fish like salmon, tuna and swordfish. The fish contain two different fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The oil is found in the tissue and around the gut of the fish. For supplementation, omega-3 is found in the form of capsules, either as fish oil or as alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA). Given that the oil has been available for purchase for centuries, it has become a billion dollar market. Besides fish, omega-3 fatty acids are found in flax, chia and hemp seeds.
What types of omega-3 fatty acids are there?
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA):
Usually found in fish and fish oil, these two fatty acids are usually referred to when mentioning omega-3. They are produced by the body and are as a result nonessential.
α-Linolenic acid (ALA):
This fatty acid is only produced by plants and can be found in seeds and walnuts (as mentioned above), and many plant oils. As they are essential to the human body, they must be consumed via diet.
Fatty Acids other than the three mentioned- such as Docosapentaenoic acid (DPA)- have not been well studied regarding their usefulness. Some of them are essential and are found in algae and seeds.
How to take omega-3:
The minimum effective dose is around 250 mg of EPA and DHA combined daily. Supplementation is not required for this. The recommended dosage is 1 g as most of the below mentioned effects will take place at this amount. There is no set toxic dosage although dosages of over 15 grams do not yield additional results.
How will supplementing with omega-3 help me?
Ingesting omega-3 fatty acids aid the body in a multitude of ways, both related to health and fitness, no matter if it is through supplements or diet. Although more do exist, here are the ways in which these fatty acids will benefit the natural lifter.
Lowered Risk of Disease:
In the average western diet, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is around 15-16:1. Through lowering the difference, one does also lower the risk of cardiovascular and other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes. This is also aided by the decrease in triglycerides that DHA can cause. Studies have found that supplementing with fish oil can decrease triglycerides by as much as 25%. For people with higher blood pressure than regular, omega-3 and fish in general seem to lower it, although such effects have not been replicated in those with normal blood pressure. Despite the fact that many of the studies contradict each other, there seems to be sufficient evidence for EPA specifically to act favorably in regards to depression. Additionally, oils rich in DHA have been found to improve cognition and cerebral blood flow, thus also proving helpful when it comes to cognitive decline.
Omega-3 fatty acids function in three different ways in order to promote fat loss. The first way is utilizing adipose tissue as an energy source. A study has found that dietary fish oil increases lipid oxidation and thus lowers body fat mass. The second way in which fat loss is promoted is through cortisol. There is evidence to believe that omega-3 suppresses induced cortisol increases. Cortisol is a hormone that increases blood sugar, which results in storing adipose tissue. The third and final method in which these fatty acids can aid in reducing fat tissue is through their anticoagulant effect. Although the only study that has been performed was on subject that were already on warfarin, an anticoagulant drug. What was measured in the study was how much further the omega-3 would influence blood clotting, and the results have shown that the anticoagulation has increased with when paired with the fatty acids.
Multiple studies have indicated that omega-3 fatty acids may have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, thus improving recovery from heavy weight or endurance training.
The only notable side effect might be what is regarded as “fish burps”. Although foul tasting, this is of no medical significance and can be alleviated in the following manners: spread the intake of capsules throughout the day and do not ingest them on an empty stomach, but only in combination with meals.
To Be Cautious of:
As already stated, omega-3 fatty acids can act as an anticoagulant and combining them with medication should be taken with care, especially regarding medicine such as warfarin, heparin or aspirin, due to them also being anticoagulants.
Mercury has been found in some of the fish oil brands. Mercury is a metal that is toxic to humans and can stay in the body for up to 90 days upon consumption. Besides the oils, mercury has also been found in fish, due to their prey being contaminated with mercury. Furthermore, some fish contain even more mercury than the supplement. Given that the amounts of mercury in fish oils are far too low to have an effect, it is safe to say that supplementing with them would be harmless in most cases.
If you are not taking anticoagulant drugs, and you want to drastically improve your life expectancy coupled with performance at the gym, omega-3 is worth considering. The risks are almost non existent and the benefits abundant. No higher dosage than 1 gram daily is required, but more would be beneficial.
– Milos Askovic