While many of us have heard of omega-3-fatty acids being great for heart health, more and more research is demonstrating omega-3s benefits for athletic purposes as well. What are some of those benefits, and how do you increase your omega-3 consumption? Read on to find out.
One of the biggest athletic benefits of consuming a diet higher in omega-3s is a quicker recovery time. Most athletes like to “feel the burn” to some extent, but no one likes being sore for too long. Omega-3s help fight inflammation, which can help decrease muscle soreness after a workout. Not only does the decrease in inflammation help with decreasing muscle soreness, but it also helps improve tissue repair, another important aspect of recovery.
Omega-3s help alleviate muscle soreness by improving blood flow as well. Omega-3s have been shown to promote blood flow to muscles during exercise, which aids in decreased soreness, reduced swelling, and increased range of motion post-exercise.
For those athletes looking to improve body composition, increasing omega-3s in the diet may help. Studies have shown that increasing omega-3s helps improve insulin sensitivity, which in turn helps promote using fat in muscle as fuel (“burning fat”) while also limiting fat storage and sparing glycogen/glucose as an energy substrate. In other words, omega-3s can help you maintain lean muscle mass while decreasing fat mass.
Athletes shouldn’t discount the cardiovascular benefits that omega-3s provide, either. Omega-3s can help reduce heart rate during exercise, which means there is a decreased feeling of exertion during workouts, allowing the athlete to “go harder, longer”.
So what foods are great sources of omega-3s and how much do you need? Aim for consuming 1000mg-2000mg of high quality omega-3s (EPA and DHA) daily. This is the equivalent of consuming about 6oz. of fatty fish (think salmon, trout, fresh tuna, herring, mackerel, sardines, and oysters) every other day. Other great food sources of omega-3s include avocado, eggs (the yolk), pumpkin seeds, walnuts, flax seed, and chia seeds. Another option is to take a fish oil or omega-3 supplement. If you’re going the supplement route, look for a supplement that contains at least 1000mg of omega-3s with the majority of those omega-3s coming from a combination of DHA and EPA.
From helping combat muscle soreness to aiding in body composition, omega-3s pack a powerful punch.