Why fish oil is my favorite sports nutrition supplement

I like things that work even if you don’t want to. It’s not because I’m lazy it’s just, well if something makes you healthier and enhances the effects of anything else you might be doing with physical or mental training then it’s a no brainer.

These special substances occur in nature are freely available and have the ability to rapidly improve your body composition and long term health as well, they are;

  • Fish oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Green Tea
  • Chocolate
  • CLA

The daddy of special substances is fish oil. Fish oil is the panacea of life, there’s not much it can’t or won’t do in the body to regulate and enhance all aspects of cellular function.

The reason it does this is because the cells or rather cell walls are made from fat. So the health of the cell membrane depends on the fat that you eat.  You need cells to be built from a good mix of fatty acids, but if you have too many of one type over another then cell membrane health will be compromised and cell communication will be less efficient.

There are a number of ways to tell if you are deficient, by far the most accurate and recommended way is to get your red blood cell fatty acids status analysed through a blood test. You should do this regularly if you take fish oil or any kind of essential fat at least once every 6 months.

Other ways you can tell are if you have rough skin on the back of your arms, or anywhere else, dry eyes, frequent infections, poor memory, loss of hair of dandruff, slow wound healing, PMS or breast pain and infertility.

Any inflammatory condition will worsen with low or insufficient intake of omega 3 and a balance of other fatty acids particularly omega 6 and trans or hydrogenated fats. This is one of the reasons for the increase in these disorders in the western world. Asthma, eczema, arthritis, aches pains, heart disease, and stroke, can all be avoided or symptoms associated with these conditions improved through supplementation and changing the way you eat.

The culprit in this picture is also excess omega 6, vegetable oil – if you have sunflower oil at home, throw it away! Switch to omega 9, sources instead – olive oil is the way to go along with avocado, and other monounsaturated rich sources like peanuts and sesame seeds.

People who are likely to be deficient in omega 3 are those who don’t eat oily fish or walnuts, pumpkinseeds and linseeds regularly or people who don’t supplement. Athletes are normally always deficient as they process these fats quicker than the public but eat like the general public.

89% of all athletes I test are deficient, and 50% are still low after 18 months of supplementation. The reason for this is athletes process these fats quicker due to high cell turnover and high states of inflammation. Plus it takes time to get these fats back into the body unless you mega dose which is something I do not believe in.

Most common reported health benefit which people are aware of is a decrease in inflammation and pain around joints and problem areas such as old injuries or points of surgery. Many athletes who have taken fish oils can use less anti-inflammatory NSAIDS or even non at all once they have the right levels in their diet and supplementation programme. Combining fish oil with other herbal botanicals can literally work wonders. Last week I took an elderly lady from not being able to open doors or lift up her grandchildren to doing just that within a week. Her arthritic thumb was hampering common daily activities so much; she couldn’t function in normal ways. Her regime simple, cat’s claw, ultra inflamex (metagenics product), and fish oil.

They also help with a variety of mental parameters as the brain is comprised primarily of fish oil. There’s plenty of research to support higher IQ level in children and lower behavioral issues with kids who take fish oils and fatty acid supplements regularly. The same benefits also apply to adults through fish oils ability to increase serotonin levels and brain communication.

SUMMARY AND SCIENCE

Here’s some science based advice and practical issues you should consider when supplementing with fish oils;

Fish oil, which has a high concentration of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), may increase fat utilization and decrease fat storage.  More specifically, it may turn on the lipolytic genes (fat burning genes) and turn off the lipogenic genes (fat storage genes).  Furthermore, it may provide additional fat loss effects by increasing the utilization of fat stores from the adipocytes, serotonin levels (and hence reduce carbohydrate cravings), insulin sensitivity and decreasing alcohol cravings.

High doses of EPA and DHA increase oxidative stress, which in turn promotes inflammation.  For example, they can cause oxidation of low density lipoproteins (LDLs), i.e. LDL is converted from large, good LDL to small, dense, bad LDL.  The significance of this is that small, dense, bad LDL has the potential to leak through the endothelial wall, setting off a chain of athrogenic (cardiovascular) events.  Owing to this EPA and DHA should be taken with gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which has an anti-inflammatory effect.   The dose of GLA should be 30-50% of the total amount of EPA:DHA.   In order to reduce oxidative stress caused by high doses of EPA and DHA, it is important to eat anti-oxidants which are red in colour since they benefit the heart.

In order to optimise fish oil supplementation, the following should apply:

  •  The accumulative dose of EPA and DHA should be ~4-6g/d.  However, higher doses may have an additive effect on fat loss   
  • You should get your RBC fatty acid profile measured every 6 months when taking fish oil or any fatty acid supplement   
  • The ratio of EPA:DHA should be 3:2
  • Fish oil supplement should be combined with GLA in the dose highlighted above
  • Fish oil supplement should be combined with vitamin E (prevents oxidation of fish oil within the body, i.e. increases its stability within the body)
  • Fish oil supplement should be stored in a cool, dry place
  • Fish oil supplement used should be cycled regularly
  • Combining fish oil with L-carnitine may have an additive effect on fat loss.  For every 10g of fish oil, take 1g of L-carnitine.  Since L-carnitine is a stimulant, it should be taken before 4pm so as not to disrupt sleep.

I hope I’ve demonstrated to you the benefits of fish oils, like all supplements I suggest you cycle them don’t choose one and stick to it forever, the one brand I suggest my clients start of with is this fish oil supplement.


Author

Matt Lovell – Elite Sports Nutritionist

Matt Lovell - Elite Sports Nutritionist

Matt Lovell is the sports nutritionist for the England Rugby team and works with  UK Athletics team as they prepare for the Olympic Games in London in 2012.

Matt has written a comprehensive guide on Preparing for a Big Event, the popular Fat Loss Program Four Week Fat Loss and Regenerate a Muscle Building Nutrition program.

 


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