If you’ve ever considered popping a pill of omega 3s, it’s probably been for your heart. After all, the American Heart Association says that the good-for-you fatty acids can reduce triglyceride levels, keep your arteries clear, and ward off irregular heartbeats.
And while no athlete is hitting a new PR without a healthy heart, the in-the-gym, on-the-field benefits of omega 3s go so much further. Omega 3s can not only speed your workout recovery, boost your gains, and help you hit new athletic goals, but are also necessary for cardiovascular, brain, joint, eye and skin health.
The thing is, your body can’t make omega 3 fatty acids on its own. It depends on your diet for those, and even if you are making an effort to eat lots of fish, avocados, and nuts, you might be falling short of your goals.
Omega 3s come in three types: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Long-chain fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are found in fish, fish oil supplements, and algae extract. The short-chain form, ALA, is found in plant sources like nuts, flax seed, chia seeds, avocado, and olive oil.
Your body can only use the long-chain omega 3s, though. So, to make use of other forms, it converts ALA into EPA and then into DHA. Unfortunately, this process is anything but efficient. In men, only about 5 percent of the ALA consumed converts into EPA and less than 1 percent of EPA converts into DHA, says Jim White, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios. “So sole use of this process is not the ideal way to elevate EPA and DHA in your body,” he says. To get enough EPA and DHA—many experts recommend 500 to 1,000 mg per day—you would need to eat at least two servings of fatty fish like salmon, tuna, or mackerel each week. Not to mention the requisite nuts, seeds, and heart-healthy oils to hit your ALA requirements. Many guys, even the healthier ones out there, don’t.
That’s where omega 3 supplements come in. Read on to learn how omega 3 supplements, stocked with EPA and DHA, can boost your athletic performance.