Whats the deal with Fish Oil?
Over the last week, including at the Wellness Challenge Info Session Friday night, folks have asked what the deal is with fish oil and how much we should be taking. While there is a lot written on this topic that you could go and research yourself, I try to answer these questions in the most nuts-n-bolts form here for you today. As you recall a few weeks back we talked about the importance of protein in our diets and how protein was but one critical component. Well, another critical component is fat – this is where fish oil falls, specifically within the healthy fat category. Simply put dietary fat (and the resultant fatty acids our bodies create) are important for overall health, performance and energy efficiency – or in “technical” terms they provide the structure for our cells and helps forms our brain and nervous systems, they regulate hormone function, they transport certain vitamins and minerals in the body, and they serve as the largest fuel source in our bodies.
Yep, you read that correctly your body needs fats to run, as well as to pull from when things start running slow. While most fatty acids are able to be created by the body through metabolic process (I won’t bore you with that detail), there are two types of fatty acids that our bodies are not able to create through these processes – one is found in Omega 3 and another in Omega 6. As such, we need to provide those fatty acids directly to our body.
Ok, but why Fish Oil?
The human diet has long contained seafood/shellfish, game, and plant life – all of which provide a balanced abundance of Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s into our diet through the consumption of foods. However, as food technology has advanced and our diets have shifted to include grains and grain-fed animal protein’s the balance of our Omega 3 and Omega 6 ingestion has shifted to the detriment of Omega 3s. This is not to say that we do not need to worry about ensuring we are getting Omega 6 via food sources, just that our bodies operate more frequently at an Omega 3 deficit even in today’s healthy diets. To assist in bringing the Omega 6 and Omega 3 ratio back closer to 1:1, we take supplements.
Fish oil provides us with two key Omega 3 components known by their acronyms EPA and DHA and flax provides us with a third known as ALA. Between the ingestion of fish oil and flax (either as a seed, powder or oil) we are introducing Omega 3s into our diet and therefore allowing cells to become more “fluid”. By increasing the fluidity of our cells, messages throughout our body occur much more easily. Research shows that Omega 3s (specifically DHA) are critical to brain health and when low are associated with memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and mood pattern changes. Similarly, Omega 3s tend to promote blood vessel dilation and anti-coagulant effects (which is why you must inform your doctor you are taking fish oil especially if you are pending surgery), have anti-inflammatory effects, and contribute to pain reduction.
Why is this important to us?
We stress the ingestion of fish oil during our Wellness Challenges because we put a lot of stress on our bodies during our workouts – and simply put in our daily lives. A deficit of Omega-3s is not encouraged for the non-athletic person, and as an athlete we want to fuel our bodies as efficiently as possible and ensure it is healing properly. Omega-3s are critical to that turnover in cell development that helps our bodies recover as well as acting to reduce the inflammation we will inherently incur in life and in our workouts.
How much should I take?
As always, consult your doctor if you have any medical concerns to make sure that you are not negatively impacting medicines you have been prescribed or otherwise. For the average, non-medically influenced adult – there really is no cap on fish oil ingestion. We do want to try to balance our Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio but if you are listening to your body you will know when you’ve hit the right amount. To get started FEARLESS Nutrition recommends that (presuming you have no medical conditions to alter this), take 2 to 4 grams (aka 2000 – 4000 mg) of COMBINED EPA and DHA daily.
** Again, I emphasize that some athletes may take more so you should play around to see what your body feels happiest with when going over 4 grams.
Where can I get Fish Oil?
As you can see in the following Fish Oil Video there is an argument to take liquid fish oil over pill form to allow for rapid and direct absorption by the body. FEARLESS Nutrition defers to you the athlete on which you prefer. There are several brands out there of both, so do your homework and find the one that works best for you in your budget range. If you are looking for a personal recommendation talk to your fellow athletes but as a baseline I provide that between Coach Conan and I the following products have been used: Progenex, Dr. Sears’ products, GNC’s EPA/DHA 1000s (which I don’t even know if it’s on the market any more), SFH + D3 liquid, and PurePharma. We are also a ThorneFX affiliate, which means their 5-star IFOS rated pill and the liquid fish oil are available to you as well (Coach Conan is taking the liquid now and I plan to switch to try when I have completed the PurePharma pills that I currently have). There is no right answer, it’s dependent upon you and your budget, we recommend you look to see if the brand has been IFOS tested (typically written on the box or has IFOS emblem on the bottle) or you can check out the IFOS website to see if the brand you want to try is certified.
CFI Nutrition Coach
Precision Nutrition Certified