Omega-3 fatty acids are a powerful compound capable of bolstering heart health, speeding exercise recovery, boosting gains, and safeguarding everything from your brain to your joints, eyes to skin; so, yes, every lifter, runner, and athlete needs omega-3s in their life.
The nutrient can also help you get lean. New research actually found that Omega-3 fatty acids trigger the activation of fat-torching beige and brown fat, kickstarting your metabolism and warding off obesity and its related diseases (read: diabetes), according to a new study published in the journal Nature Communications.
Ultimately, omega-3 fatty acids trigged the onset of thermogenesis in brown fat tissue of the mouse subjects—helping them not only adapt to cold and create warmth but protect them from obesity by burning calories. The team noticed omega-3 fatty acids conjured the activation of brown and beige fat tissue through a specific receptor (GPR120), which enables the release of the growth factor hormone, which regulates metabolism. In turning white fat into brown, the changed tissue prompts carb and fat metabolism to boot. To read all the nitty gritty details of the study go to the article in full, here.
"The types of omega-3s found in fish, called DHA and EPA, have the strongest health benefits and are digested the easiest," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It. "The form known as ALA is found mostly in vegetable oils, flaxseed, walnuts, and dark leafy vegetables, like kale and spinach, which your body can change small amounts of into EPA and DHA, but it won't provide as much omega-3 as fatty fish sources like mackerel and salmon," she adds. Still, all kinds are worth eating particularly since they're found in foods with additional nutrition perks.
Want to reap the benefits of omega-3s? We've compiled a list of the best sources so you can incorporate more into your daily diet; you can also take a supplement, but speak with your doctor first to determine an appropriate dose because there's no set recommended standard. It depends on your size, age, health status, etc. That said, the American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice a week to get natural sources of EPA and DHA as well as nuts and seeds.
Note: All omega-3 amounts below are from the USDA Food Composition Database.