The Importance of Fish Oil
If you’ve ever done any research on health and fitness, chances are you’ve come across a recommendation to take fish oil supplementation as a part of your diet. While, you may not have known why it was beneficial, it seemed like a good idea, and what could it hurt? Well, there is a lot of support as to why fish oil should not only be a part of a fitness program but a part of daily diet regardless of fitness level.
What is Fish Oil?
It’s not so much what it is, but what it contains: fish oil is a type of fat (omega-3), that contains EPA and DHA. These omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats and are actually good fats (unlike saturated fats and trans fats). They are essential fatty acids, not produced by the human body; therefore, they must be consumed. Polyunsaturated fats play a crucial role in brain function and normal growth & development, but they have also been shown to reduce the risk of depression, increase calcium, resulting in better bone health, and curb stiffness and joint pain, due to a reduction of inflammation. But there are two main reasons why fitness enthusiasts should consider fish oil as a part of their daily nutrition plan.
- Heart Health
Omega-3 fatty acids are not only responsible for the cognitive function and normal growth and development, but they also regulate contraction and relaxation of artery walls, decrease inflammation, and regulate blood clotting. These benefits are associated with heart health and the reduction of certain risk factors associated with cardiovascular events and heart disease. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids so it, too, has many heart benefits, with the main being a reduction in the risk of heart disease. DHA-rich fatty acids can improve plasma triacylglycerols, high-density lipoprotein-HDL, and flow-mediated dilation-FMD), decreasing the risk for heart disease.
Increased cardiovascular risk has a strong correlation to high heart rates, as greater heart rates increase the risk for ischemia and/or arrhythmias due to a higher probability of erratic heartbeat as a result of blood moving too quickly into and out of the chambers of the heart. Fish oil has been shown to decrease resting heart rate, minimizing the risk of a cardiovascular event. Decreases in blood pressure are also associated with fish oil ingestion possibly as a result of a reduction in systemic vascular resistance (resistance to blood flow).
Fish oil consumption decreases oxygen consumption and increases oxygen delivery to the tissues and muscles, improving the body’s ability to do work. In this case, an increase in oxygen delivery elicits the potential for a longer duration of an aerobic exercise bout. The combination of fish oil and aerobic exercise increases fatty acid mobilization and its delivery to and in the muscles, causing an increase in the amount of fat being burned, resulting in a lower body fat percentage. Fish oil improves left ventricular efficiency allowing for a greater amount of blood being pumped from the heart and to the periphery, increasing the potential for muscular hypertrophy, because muscle building occurs partially as a result of increased blood flow to the tissues. This combined with fish oil’s ability to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and increase muscle protein anabolic response (in the presence of insulin and amino acids, as a result of diet) enables greater muscle building potential.
Recap: Why Fish Oil?
- Improves brain function
- Improves bone health
- Decreases stiffness and joint pain
- Decreases risk for heart disease
- Decreases cardiovascular risks
- Increases duration of exercise
- Decreases body fat
- Increases muscular hypertrophy