Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Go Fish for Health

Go Fish for Health

Fish oils may be some of the most underrated supplements on the market.  Not only do fish oils have several health benefits but we are learner more and more about potential performance enhancing effects as well.  Fish oils contain certain fatty-acids known as Omega 3 fatty acids which are classified as an essential fatty acid (meaning our body cannot make them and they need to be obtained through the diet).  The primary active components of Omega 3 fatty acids are EPA and DHA.  These fatty acids have been reported to have a "cardioprotective" effect meaning they can lower your chance of developing cardiovascular disease.  They are also required for normal growth, cell integrity, proper joint health and can provide powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

How Much To Take?
The average American only consumes ~0.15 g/day which is far below the recommendation of ~1-3 g/day of fish oil with an EPA:DHA ratio of 2:1.  As you could probably guess, the best source of Omega 3's are fatty fishes such as Salmon, Herring and Trout.  However, if you're like the majority of Americans, you probably don't consume fish every day.  Whether it be you don't like the taste of fish or you live in the Upper Mid-West (far from salmon country) and you refuse to believe that the salmon at your local grocery store is "fresh,"  you should still try to consume enough Omega 3's each day.  Luckily supplement companies have made it easy for us to do this with the help of fish oil supplements.

*Tip: When looking for a fish oil supplement, choose one with a high DHA and EPA content (the higher, the better).

Fish oil supplementation is most commonly known for it's health benefits, particularly because of it's ability to lower one's risk of developing cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure and improving the blood-lipid profile.  Recent evidence has also suggested that fish oil may help improve brain functioning and help with concussion symptoms following a traumatic brain injury. Below is a summary of just some of the health benefits of fish oil supplementation.  We are constantly learning more and more reasons to include fish oils in the diet and I'm sure there will be many more reasons coming in the future.

Health Benefits:
- Lowers risk of developing coronary artery disease.
- May improve recovery from brain injuries (concussions).
- If taken before brain injury may lessen the amount of damage.
- Can lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
- Reduces the chance of clot formation.
- Lowers blood pressure. 
- Improves bone health (increases bone density and lowers risk of fracture).
- May help improve cognitive functioning over time and prevent dementia.
- Improves insulin sensitivity and decreases risk of developing diabetes.

Not only can fish oils benefit the average human but they may even be more important for athletes who are engaged in heavy training.  There is strong evidence that suggests fish oils have anti-inflammatory effects and can help speed up recovery from exercise as well as prevent muscle damage.  It also seems to improve heart function during exercise by improve cardiac efficiency (your heart doesn't have to work as hard).  Below is a list of several other benefits of fish oil supplements and why they are important for athletes to incorporate into their daily food intake.

Performance Benefits:
- Lowers heart rate during exercise.
- May reduce muscle damage and soreness following intense exercise.
- Has anti-inflammatory effects.
- Has anti-oxidant effects.
- May help stimulate protein synthesis and prevent protein degradation (builds muscle and prevents it from being broken down).
- May improve body composition.

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