Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Supplement You Didn't Know Helps Your Workout

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Nope, it's not protein. It's the elusive white whale of the supplement world: fish oil, mainly due to it's richness in omega-3s, but also partially because you'll run a lot faster if you're being hunted by Captain Ahab. Ok, we promise, no more Moby Dick jokes.

Moving on, we often let the main benefit of heart health overshadow some of the other ways that omega-3 fatty acids can help the body. For one, they can support athletic performance and recovery. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the combination of fish-oil supplements with regular aerobic exercise improves body composition and cardiovascular disease risk factors moreso than either effort on its own.

What's an omega-3?

Omega-3s are essential fatty acids (EFAs) that have been shown to offer a ton of benefits, which you'll see some of below. They're called "essential" because we need them for proper function, but our bodies don't make them, so we have to obtain them through food or supplements. Fish and fish oil supplements are the richest source of omega-3s — the main two are called EPA and DHA.

How can they help me?

You'll recover faster. Consistent fish oil supplementation results a lower level of inflammation. If inflammation in the body is high after exercise, it can have a negative impact on muscle soreness, tissue repair and other important aspects of recovery.

Slow muscle loss. According to Why Athletes Need Omega-3s by Jeff S. Volek, Ph.D., R.D., emerging studies showing that omega-3s may regulate muscle growth and help during extended periods of rest by slowing the loss in both muscle and bone. This is especially notable for athletes during breaks in training or those who sustain an injury.

They'll reduce muscle soreness. Omega-3 fats have also been shown to increase blood flow to the muscles during exercise. They also have decreased muscle soreness by 35%, reduced swelling, and increased range of motion after damaging exercise.

Melt fat. Omega-3s support fat loss by switching on enzymes that trigger fat burning in cells. They also might improve leptin signaling in the brain, which in turn causes it to turn up fat burning and turn down appetite. Studies also show increased omega-3 levels may enhance insulin sensitivity, which inhibits fat storage and improves fat burning in muscles. Check out our other recommended best supplements for burning fat.

Lower your triglycerides. Subjects in the study referenced earlier who supplemented with fish oil were able to decrease blood triglycerides by 14%, increase “good” cholesterol by 10% and improve the functioning of their blood vessels. All of these points result in better recovery and improved health for athletes.

Don't eat fish?

That's ok! If you're vegetarian and still want the benefits of fish oil, try flaxseed oil, a vegetable source of omega-3s. It's nature's best source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 precursor to EPA and DHA. ALA can also be found in canola oil, and in some nuts like walnuts and almonds. It makes a good alternative to salad dressings. And it's great in a protein shake!

*Always talk to your doctor before adding any supplements to your daily routine.

What supplements do you use to enhance your workout? Let us know in a comment!

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