Yes OMG, omega-3 is an essential fat, reinstating how vital it is and it doesn’t matter whether you get it through your food or take it as a supplement. The crucial thing is that our bodies cannot make it and so you need to get it in through your diet!

What even is it?

Omega-3 is a broad name and what we are most interested in is its derivatives; alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). To get from omega-3 to the derivatives requires conversion, ALA EPA     DHA. However, this conversion process is actually pretty awful! So, without conscious efforts to eat foods high in omega-3 or take supplements, you’re really going to struggle to give yourself any health benefits.

Where do we get omega-3 from?

Plant foods and plant oils are a great source of ALA. Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, canola and soybean oil, walnuts and chia seeds. Fish is a brilliant source of EPA and DHA, however you need to focus on the right types – oily fish.

The benefits!

Omega-3 has strong anti-inflammatory properties, which help defend us against oxidative stress, which can occur from smoking all the way to good old exercise!

Are you suffering with chronic pain?

For many gym goers, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and gains are part of the fitness journey, but chronic pain, particularly in our joints, is just a burden. If you don’t currently supplement with omega-3, but suffer with daily pain, you really should consider it! Studies have shown omega-3 supplements to be highly effective in reducing consistent joint pain – in some cases as effective as prescription drugs.

If you fancy relieving your chronic pain through your diet, research recommends a hefty 4 portions of oily fish per week –your salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna (not tinned), herring and sardines. Alternatively, if you, like many others, probably can’t stomach that oily fish, then a supplement containing 1800mg EPA and 1200mg DHA would be just as good!

Can omega-3 help with your reducing your waist circumference?!

If you’re trying to losing weight, taking an omega-3 supplement might help you to lower that waist circumference and waist to hip ratio…

It’s been found that taking fish oil supplements in addition to a weight loss programme considerably reduced waist circumference of patients over taking no supplement! Also, studies have also found that patients with low levels of omega-3 actually had greater levels of abdominal obesity! However! do not mistake this for omega-3 reducing body weight directly, as no evidence shows this and that is definitely down to nutrition and exercise!

Can omega-3 help our sleeping?

Sleep is vital in our training regimes, a time to recover and re-energise. If we can’t sleep properly, we feel groggy, lack the motivation to train and often find ourselves turning to the coffee jar. Instead, we should perhaps turn to omega-3…

Omega-3 is a nutrient involved in the synthesis of melatonin – very important in assisting a healthy sleep pattern. Although the evidence isn’t concrete, there have been studies to show benefits of supplementing with DHA and improving sleep! A study in children found longer sleep duration per night and fewer episodes of waking after a good few months of supplementation. Also, raising the blood concentration of DHA also showed improvements in sleep with adults with sleep apnea! More research is needed in this area, but to me it this seems to show more benefits than not…

Omega-3 and our wellbeing

Stresses of work and life affect all of us, and when we feel a bit down, doing exercise to blow off steam can seem more of a hassle than good! Unbelievably, our brain is 60% fat, of which 30% is made up of omega-3 fats, so they are very important in our mental health! Omega-3 make prostaglandins, which is vital in our brains, helping in ways like relaxing our blood vessels, reducing stress on our bodies, and improving the function of nerves. Low omega-3 levels are in fact now associated strongly with depression symptoms which can make general life a real struggle and send all gym motivation out of the window.

An important thing to note!

If you’re going to make a conscious effort to boost your omega-3 intakes either by diet or a supplement, you should also try to reduce your omega-6 intake. Although omega-6 is also an essential fat, too much omega-6 is a real problem for omega-3.

Omega-6 in high amounts is pro-inflammatory and omega-3 and omega-6 compete for the same enzymes for conversion. When there too much omega-6 coming from our diet, it will always knock omega-3 out of the competition, preventing its conversion and not giving the health benefits.

What’s the overall verdict?

Omega-3 is absolutely crucial, all the way from keeping our joints healthy and to keeping our mental health in good shape. We need it throughout our life and this is a nutrient that should never be overlooked! If you think you’re not getting enough, definitely consider altering your shopping list or buying a supplement…it could do you a world of good!

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lydiareece

lydiareece

Written by Lydia Reece, Masters in Human Nutrition, a UK accredited Associate Nutritionist and a nutrition consultancy business – flonutrition. Find her at www.flonutrition.co.uk and follow her on Instagram @thegymnut

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