As athletic performance coaches, we are constantly looking for the best way to ensure success for our athletes. To us, it revolves around having an intense work ethic and consistency with your workouts, nutrition, and recovery. Intense workouts to challenge your body and improve your performance, a healthy diet of real food to feed and repair the body, and a variety of recovery modalities (like foam rolling, sleep, and, again, nutrition) to consistently progress in your training. Once all of those things are in place, we can then add supplements into the mix. Keep in mind that supplements do not replace any part of your healthy diet, but will instead supplement your diet with nutrients you lack due to the nature of today’s foods.
It’s no secret that there has been a sharp decline in the nutrient density of our foods over the last half-century. It is for this reason that the multi-vitamin has become so popular, and necessary, in our diets. I’ll get to the multi-vitamin in another installment, because today I’m talking about Omega 3 fatty acids.
So what’s the big deal about Omega 3’s? Fifty years ago we could find them in all of our protein and fat sources. We could find them in grass-fed cattle, farm-raised eggs, wild salmon, sardines, and even in some vegetable sources. Now, as livestock are raised on feedlots and stuffed full with corn, the Omega 3 content is diminished and the Omega 6 profile is raised. Although both fatty acids can be good for you, we have reached the point where our Omega 3 to 6 ratio is so heavily unbalanced toward the 6’s that we are getting more than 10 times the proper amount of Omega 6’s. Although there is still some discussion as to the proper ratio of 3’s to 6’s, the research shows a marked benefit in cardiovascular health with higher levels of Omega 3’s in the diet.
Omega 3’s come in 3 different forms; ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). The first is found in vegetable sources like flax seeds, walnuts, beans, broccoli, and some dairy products. The latter two are the marine forms found in salmon, trout, sardines, tuna, and other cold-water fish.
Our recommendations: Take a high-potency fish oil daily to improve your fatty acid profile. Look for a pill that has a high concentration of EPA and DHA’s, preferably higher than 50% of the pill size. For a 1000mg pill, look for a potency of up to 90%. The GNC Triple Strength Fish Oil contains 900mg total omega-3 fatty acid in each softgel. Athletes should attempt to take ~1-2 grams EPA and DHA each day (or about 2 pills from GNC’s product). If you can handle the liquid form, then Carlson The Very Finest Fish Oil Liquid has you covered in just 1 tsp per day.
- Improvements in cardiovascular function
- Decreased inflammation and joint pain
- Linked to improved body composition
- Linked to a reduced risk for cancer, heart disease, and psychological disorders
- Improved emotional status