Omega-3 supplements have the unfortunate attribute of being an item you only buy when you need something to push your cart over £100 to bag free delivery.
I hate that.
Because even though they lack the sexyness of a brand new whey protein formula, or the marketing power of a pre-workout which promises to “split your skin”, they still pack an impressive punch!
It’s pretty well-known that fish oil (Omega-3) can help with the retention of lean muscle tissue as we grow older, but did you know it can be just as useful for younger adults, too? (1)
During a 2011 study, researchers from St Louis worked with two groups of young adults to test out the potential hypertrophy (muscle building) benefits of daily Omega-3 supplementation. One group received 4 grams of Omega-3 every day, while the other group of participants received a placebo. The researchers found that the people who had been using Omega-3 experienced a greater response to insulin, bigger muscle cells, and improved rates of muscle protein synthesis. (2)
That should put the final nail in the coffin of the old belief that fish oil is just for your Grandad!
And there’s more…
Underneath their squishy gold exterior, these miniature bad boys are hiding a boatload of health benefits which largely go untapped by the masses of people who overlook fish oil.
One such benefit is the added protection of your body’s cells as you age. New research from Brazil shows that having low levels of the Omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is heavily linked with DNA damage, which can speed up the physical signs of aging and in some cases even lead to neurological disease.
The researchers found that participants with the highest levels of DHA and EPA showed the lowest DNA damage, so by providing your body with a regular dose of Omega-3 you are helping it fight back. (3)
But What About The Other Omega Fatty Acids?
If you look at any supplement store you’ll notice they also offer Omega-6, Omega-9, and sometimes even an Omega-3-6-9 combo supplement, but I encourage you to stick with a dedicated Omega-3 supplement instead.
You see, the fatty acids found in Omega-3 (DHA and EPA) are so valuable to the body that they should be a priority, and you’ll find them in the most abundance in Omega-3 supplements.
Once consumed, DHA and EPA are involved in several mechanisms including switching on genes which are responsible for beginning the fat burning process (while turning off ones which hinder it), improving your memory, enhancing your mood and, as mentioned above, giving you a greater anabolic response to insulin, which can help you put those post-workout protein and carbohydrate based meals to even better use. (4, 5)
DHA and EPA are deemed “essential nutrients”, meaning the body cannot create them therefore we must obtain them through our diet if we want to reap the rewards they offer – which we sure do! The majority of the population does not eat fatty fish regularly enough to hit their daily goal of DHA and EPA, which is why I recommend grabbing a good Omega-3 supplement to do it for you. Supplements are designed to plug the gaps in our diet, after all.
Given that all of the muscle building, fat burning, and fitness-related benefits of fish oil come from DHA and EPA, it makes sense to really keep on top of it.
The same cannot be said for other forms of Omega fatty aids, though, because while Omega-6 fatty acids do offer some anti-inflammatory benefits they lack the gym-related rewards contained within their Omega-3 cousins, plus they’re easily found in vegetables therefore most people do not have a gap in their diet with those. As for Omega-9 fatty acids, well, consider these the weak link. They’re not even deemed “essential” (the body can make them), and olive oil is choc-full of them so chances are you’re already hitting your daily requirements without even thiking about it.
Russ’ Final Verdict
In a world where everybody wants to have more muscle definition and less fat, and is constantly looking out for supplements which can help them do that, this is one of the easiest boxes to tick.
A good Omega-3 supplement offers so many health beneifts, and they do not break the bank, so it’s gotta be among the first items I recommend adding to your cart next time you’re ordering your monthly supplement haul.
If you’d like som assistance to determine whether a product is good or bad, just flip the tub and look at how much DHA and EPA it contains. Studies show us that optimal results are achieved with a daily dose of 0.5g – 1.8g with that dose split 50/50 between DHA and EPA.
You can split the dose into as many or as few servings as you like, too, as long as you hit your numbers. That means you could have multiple capsules throughout the day (I like this because I eat mine around my meals) or in one go. Finally, you can bump the dose higher (3g per day) to unlock some muscle soreness benefits if desired. There’s no need to go any higher than that. (6)
In terms of product selection there are literally thousands to choose from. It’s easy to get lost between very high quality (and very expensive) ones like this, and low quality ones which are under-dosed and have you popping thousands of pills just to hit your daily requirements like this. So to save you some time, I’ve always found that this one from Myprotein does the job perfetly fine.
- Smith G. I., et al.Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr (2011).
- Smith G. I., et al. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids augment the muscle protein anabolic response to hyperinsulinaemia–hyperaminoacidaemia in healthy young and middle-aged men and women. Clin Sci (2011).
- de Barros T. T, et al. DNA damage is inversely associated to blood levels of DHA and EPA fatty acids in Brazilian children and adolescents. Food Funct (2020).
- Yu Y-H., et al. The function of porcine PPARγ and dietary fish oil effect on the expression of lipid and glucose metabolism related genes. J Nutr Biochem (2011).
- Muldoon M. F., et al. Serum phospholipid docosahexaenonic acid is associated with cognitive functioning during middle adulthood. J Nutr (2010).
- Kris-Etherton P. M., et al. Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease. Circulation (2002).
Who Is Russ Howe PTI?
Featured in Men’s Fitness magazine and voted in the world’s top 50 fat loss coaches by HuffPost, Russ is among the UK’s most subscribed personal trainers with 104,357 people getting his free weekly fitness tips e-mail.
In the gym, clients range from busy parents, to models, to athletes and actresses. Russ also worked alongside the UK government for 8 years in a venture combating childhood obesity in England.
Outside of the gym, he’s a proud Dad to three young boys.
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