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There is a lot of discussion around the potential benefits of fish oil to your diet. In this article we will take a look at the benefits and potential side effects to help you determine if adding a fish oil supplement is right for your nutrition plan.
What Is Fish Oil?
Fish oil is made from the oils of fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, tuna and herring. The oils in these fish are extremely rich in essential fatty acids (EFA or omega-3s) and present a great food source for people. The oil is extracted from either the whole fish or from its flesh using chemical solvents such as hexane (detergent), Olive Oil or soybean oil.
The fish oils take on various names depending on the content of EPA/DHA. For instance, cod liver oil is high in EPA and DHA while Salmon Oil is high in DHA.
Benefits of Fish Oil Supplements
A lot of research has been conducted recently on the possibility of fish oils improving various aspects of brain function. There is evidence that fish oils may improve cognitive abilities in young children, improve short term memory and attention span of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. There is also some evidence that fish oils may help to improve brain function in people with various neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and bipolar disorder.
Heart Health/Cardiovascular Disease
Fish oils have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels, therefore reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition to this, fish oils have a number of other benefits such as lower triglyceride levels and reduced inflammation of the body’s connective tissue (heart, blood vessels and lungs).
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Australia and a major risk factor is elevated blood cholesterol levels. These levels are mainly determined by the body’s need for cholesterol and saturated fat, while it’s ability to produce them is determined by genetics and lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption and exercise.
It is common for our joints to take a beating as we become older or heavier — or even both — resulting in everyday suffering due to pain and inflammation. Studies show that fish oil supplements can help lubricate the joints between bones and hence reduce joint discomfort and arthritis-related symptoms.
Another Benefits of Fish Oil is it has been shown to lower blood glucose levels (blood sugar) and improve insulin sensitivity, which is vital for people with diabetes. A lowered glucose level reduces the risk of damage being caused to the body’s organs such as the eyes, nerves and heart. Fish oils also improve lipid profiles in people with type 2 diabetes.
Improved Immune System Function
A healthy immune system monitors how well our body responds to infections and disease. The immune system also plays a role in inflammation, which can be harmful to our health over time.
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After being given a vaccine, the immune system produces antibodies, which lock onto and destroy cells and tissue that have been infected. The body also produces cytokines that help to coordinate the body’s immune responses by influencing the production of antibodies and interleukins (proteins involved in the immune response). Fish oils help to enhance the process of producing these proteins, thus helping the body fight off infections more effectively.
Low in Triglycerides and Cholesterol
Triglycerides and LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol are two types of cholesterol that can build up in the body if we are not careful. High triglycerides and low LDL cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease, which is why it is so important to keep them in check. A high intake of fish oils results in a lower amount of both, while they also reduce the amount of blood cholesterol produced naturally by the body.
Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor in cardiovascular diseases. Studies show that fish oils help reduce blood pressure because they help relax and widen blood vessels. They also reduce how much work the heart has to do by reducing the levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the body.
Potential benefits for Bodybuilding
A seen above, there are many benefits of fish oil for our everyday health but does it help with our workouts. Below we will take a look at a few of areas which fish oil may benefit us during our workout routine.
Could Reduce Muscle Soreness and Fatigue
Muscle soreness is common after a hard workout. It can also be a result of an intense sports match, or just a hard days work. Fish oil supplementation may reduce the amount of damage to muscles, therefore lessening the soreness and pain that results.
Fish oil supplements have been shown to improve the body’s use of oxygen and preserve its energy reserves, which could help people to recover more quickly after physical exercise.
Fats are an important component of muscle building as they supply energy (in the form of calories) to our muscles. Many studies have shown that fish oils contain polyunsaturated fatty acids and various vitamins beneficial to muscle growth such as vitamin E, D, B1 and B9. These nutrients have been shown to improve the function of cells in our body called skeletal muscle cells. Cells that make up skeletal muscle cells are known as satellite cells, and their role is to repair damage caused by exercise.
In a study, for eight weeks, 21 males took 2,400 mg of fish oil daily (containing 600 mg of EPA and 260 mg of DHA) and did bicep curls. Compared to a placebo, fish oil avoided the onset of DOMS and the loss of muscle strength for a short period of time.
Improve the Quality of Your Workout
Fish oil’s EPA and DHA have been shown to boost workout performance, according to several studies.
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Because of their anti-inflammatory qualities, strenuous exercise may result in a decrease in strength and range of motion, which may be prevented or reduced by taking anti-inflammatory supplements.
Potentially Assist with Muscle Health As You Age
Aging causes the gradual decrease of muscular mass. Muscle mass decreases 0.1–0.5 percent per year after the age of 30; this rate increases dramatically beyond the age of 65.
Fish oil’s anti-inflammatory characteristics may boost your muscles’ sensitivity to protein and resistance exercise, allowing for greater gains in muscular size and strength as you become older.
Fatty acids make up the membranes that surround our muscles and are an essential part of muscle strength. Fish oil’s omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, have been shown to improve resistance exercise caused by a protein deficiency. As we age we tend to lose protein in specific muscles (known as fast glycolytic muscles), therefore taking supplements may protect these muscles from loss of mass.
Potential Drawbacks of Taking Fish Oil Supplements
There are a few drawbacks and potential dangers of fish oil, which you should consider if you decide to take these supplements:
One of the most common issues we see with fish oils is Gastrointestinal Issues. Fish oil can sometimes cause an upset stomach, especially if you are already sensitive to fatty acids. While this is not the case for most people, it’s a good idea to talk with a doctor before supplementing with fish oils.
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There have been several cases of fish oil supplements causing intestinal issues in people who have taken them for long periods of time. In most cases, this is due to a poor quality product. While some supplements are fine, others are not. It is best to stick to fish oil brands that are made in the US or EU and sold by credible sellers.
Blood Thinning Properties
Fish oils have the ability to thin out the blood because they contain omega-3 fatty acids, which act as natural blood thinners. If you are taking blood-thinning medications this may cause an interaction between them and the fish oil. This is due to omega-3’s increased effects on blood clotting. If you are unsure whether or not your medications interact with fish oils please ask your pharmacist or doctor.
Low Blood Pressure
Fish oil supplements may lower blood pressure. This is recommended for those who have low blood pressure, but should not be taken by those who are on blood-thinning medications as mentioned above.
You may experience insomnia if taking fish oils consistently, as they may affect sleep quality and cause wakefulness during the night.
Is Fish Oil Supplements Right for You?
Only you can answer this question. It’s important to consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of taking fish oil supplementation before you start. If you have any medical concerns, please consult a doctor before starting to take fish oil supplements.
Athletes have long used fish oils for their benefits during workouts, but studies are now showing the importance of consistent, long-term usage for the general population.
Fish Oil Dosage
You should be careful with regards to how much fish oil you take in one sitting. You don’t want to take too much at one time, as you can cause an upset stomach. Fish oil is best absorbed with a meal as this helps it to be absorbed properly.
The reference daily intake (RDI) of combined EPA and DHA is 250–500 mg. Usually 1,000 mg of fish oil provides about 300mg of combined EPA and DHA EPA and DHA but make sure to read the label.
How to Buy Fish Oil Supplements
At least 1,000 mg per serving is ideal, but it’s not mandatory. Check the label before purchasing a fish oil supplement.
Products with a single ingredient should be sought out. When purchasing a supplement, it’s important to verify that it only contains the component that’s been prescribed. It’s important to keep in mind that getting the most benefit from fish oil supplements may necessitate taking them several times a day.
Health food, grocery, and pharmacy stores carry fish oil supplements. Online purchases are also available. I’ve included a few that I’ve personally tried and liked.
My best choice and favorite is the Nordic, however it is more expensive per dose. If you prefer a fish oil supplement without capsules, consider the Carlson liquid fish oil.
Conclusion of Benefits of Fish Oil
As you can see there are many benefits for your health when adding fish oil to your diet. Fish oil can reduce inflammation, improve heart health, and protect against heart damage. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before supplementing with fish oils or if you have other medical concerns.