Fat has a pretty bad reputation, which is understandable considering the fact that both trans and saturated fats lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, and high cholesterol, just to name a few. But fat is fighting back, taking over the healthy headlines with omega 3 fatty acids.
While the nutritional benefits of this fatty acid are abundant, this power-packed nutrient can equally affect your fitness levels. Understanding how this nutrient benefits your body can take your training results to the next level.
Muscle cells act like sponges, absorbing all of the macro- and micronutrients you consume through both whole food sources and supplementation.
Omega 3s get absorbed into the membranes of the muscle cells, which helps the body moderate its insulin sensitivity and also increases the integrity of the fibers in a muscle, which can aid hypertrophy training efforts. This will allow for increases in both size and strength.
It’s important to mention that Omega 3s do get a bit of help from a fatty acid closely related: Omega 6. Omega 6 acids get a bad wrap because consumed in excessive amounts can cause inflammation. What we have come to understand today is that the North American diet is filled with this acid, which usually puts the body on overload. But when taken in proper dosages, Omega 6 is one of the body’s primary regulators (along with Omega 3) for both muscular development and muscular reflexes.
Thermogenesis keeps the body’s metabolism in an elevated state, helping utilize the body’s fat stores for energy. Omega 3s are readily converted into prostaglandins, a hormone-like substance that promotes thermogenesis.
Two omega 3s that particularly aid in this process are docosahexaenoic acid, also known as DHA, and eicosapentaenoic acid, commonly referred to as EPA. These two acids keep the body’s fat burning enzymes active while suppressing the enzymes that promote fat storage.
Linoleic acid, which is one of the primary omega 6 acids often referred to as PUFA’s, or polyunsaturated fats work with the omega 3’s to regulate metabolism and to increase the body’s stamina by aiding in transporting oxygen from red blood cells to the body’s various tissues. Increased stamina means that you can push your training to the next level by working out harder and longer.
Omega 3 fatty acids also can help keep both your active training and recovery time on track. Those same prostaglandins that keep fat storage enzymes at bay also help reduce joint pain, muscle soreness, and inflammation. Once again, in conjunction with omega 6 fatty acids which play an important role in bone health by helping the body’s musculoskeletal system to absorb more calcium, these fatty acids can help to ward off osteoporosis and other bone-related injuries which can sidetrack your training.
This means that you can maintain a higher intensity during workouts, and recovery time is reduced, which allows you to optimize training cycles.
Omega 3s also help regulate another hormone that can wreak havoc on your body and in turn affect training efforts. Cortisol is released when the body experiences stress, which can result from an intensive training cycle, coupled with the other potential stressors in life.
Excess production of cortisol can weaken the immune system, break down lean muscle mass and also promote fat storage, specifically in the belly. All of these side effects can derail fitness endeavors and ruin precious time and energy in the gym.
The internal connection to your physical fitness regime is imperative and often overlooked. Studies indicate that a positive mental environment is key for maintaining motivation, inspiration and focus on goals.
Omega 3 fatty acids can help with several mood disorders, including but not limited to depression. Depression affects physical and emotional energy levels, causing you to lose focus and motivation for activities that you enjoy.
By consuming enough fatty acids through both the Omega 3 and Omega 6 families, you can help to decrease the prevalence of these mood disorders and keep emotional and physical health in check, while taking your training efforts to the next level.
Yours in Health and Fitness,