At SPARTA we field a lot of questions about supplements. For the most part, most supplements don’t do half of what they promise. There are a few exceptions of course, creatine and glucosamine among them. But there is one supplement that everyone, competing athlete or not should take; Fish oil. The fatty acids in fish oil are part of the omega-3 family of fats. Entire books have been written about the benefits of ingesting omega-3 fats, so we’ll outline a few here.
Dr. Johnny Bowden, author of The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth says, “If there was one supplement I could mandate for the entire population of the world it would unquestionably be omega-3s.” Fish oil has been shown in research to reduce blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, the two most important risk factors for heart disease. Even the American Heart Association (very conservative) recommends between 2-4 grams of omega-3 fats a day for patients who need to lower triglycerides. Fatty acids and especially omega-3s have been shown to reduce inflammation, the cause of many diseases, most notably Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Omega-3s have a profound effect on the brain and have been studied in relation to depression, bi-polar disorder and ADD. In addition, omega-3s have been shown to prevent degenerative eye disease.
So aside from taking fish oil capsules or oil (1-4 grams a day), what foods contain these great omega-3 fats? If you guessed fish, nice job, please keep reading. Sarcasm aside, many varieties of fish contain a good amount of omega-3s. Walnuts and flax seed are other good sources, but recognize that these are plant source and to get the complete benefit you should include some marine source as well. So what fish is best to eat? Research from the Department of Internal Medicine at Wake Forest showed that over the past decade, a shift toward farm-raised varieties in the fishing industry has led to widely-eaten fish that have fatty acid characteristics considered inflammatory (bad) by the health community. In contrast those researchers found that wild caught varieties of salmon contained the highest amounts of omega-3 fats. Farm-raised fish are fed corn and grain, making them more deficient in omega-3s than their wild caught brothers. It’s the same idea behind grass fed beef. It makes sense right? Why would a farm-raised salmon fed with grain develop a normal fatty acid profile? It wouldn’t.
So chow down on wild salmon once a week, add fish oil to your short supplement list, and snack on some walnuts to increase your omega-3s. And if you’re pregnant, make sure you take in enough fish oil for two. One of the omega-3s in fish oil (DHA) forms an important part of the cell membranes in the brain and eye and is essential for early brain development.