Fish Oil has been hoisted into the spotlight in recent years for its numerous heart, brain and joint benefits. In our introductory fitness training, our coaches discuss inflammation, fish oil, and it’s natural anti-inflammatory properties. As an ITF athlete, or even prospective ITF athlete, it’s best to start taking fish oil; not only for its anti-inflammatory benefits and many more, but to get the absolute best results from our programming. Let’s take a look.

First of all, your body cannot produce Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) so it is necessary for you to get them from food and supplements. While there are numerous EFA’s the two most important are Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s. Your body absolutely needs both, however you need them in the correct ratio.

Your individual EFA ratio is completely driven by your individual diet since your body has no way to make them on it’s own. Because these two EFA’s compete for use in the body, it is important that you maintain the proper ratio of Omega 6’s to 3’s – between 3:1 and 6:1 – or you may become deficient in one or the other. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet is very high in Omega 6’s and very low in 3’s, so much so that most American’s have a ratio of 10:1 or even 25:1, respectively.

There are numerous conditions that can be linked to an imbalance of EFA ratios, such as:

  • ADD/ADHD, arthritis, asthma, autism, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory conditions, stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, depression, menstrual cramps, MS, postpartum depression and many other disorders. (All of those are scary enough, but add to it the daily pain people experience from elevated levels of inflammation!)

So, what do you do to correct this imbalance?

The first way is to reduce the amount of Omega 6’s you are consuming. The best and easiest way to do that is by adhering to the guidelines of the Paleo Diet. The foods that are recommended in the Paleo Diet are naturally lower in Omega 6’s when compared with the recommended foods of the Standard American Diet. Foods rich in Omega 6’s include:

  • grains, some nuts/seeds, conventionally raised beef or chicken, most vegetable oils, soy and corn. (Again, it is not necessary or recommended that you avoid sources of Omega 6’s completely, but that you seek to reduce the number you are consuming!)

Second, we need to increase the amount of Omega 3’s we consume. The simplest and easiest ways to do this are by increasing the amount omega 3 rich foods you eat and by adding a fish oil supplement to your daily routine. Food sources of Omega 3’s are as follows:

  • dark green leafy veggies, flax seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, tuna, mackerel, salmon, lamb and nuts. (You should either eat foods these foods at least twice per week or take a daily omega 3 supplement.)

Making these two small changes (reducing 6’s and increasing 3’s), will bring your Omega consumption into balance and you can enjoy less pain from inflammation, improved cardiovascular health, faster recovery from exercise, and improved skin, joint, and cognitive health!

Finally, an added bonus of taking fish oil is weight loss. Studies have shown that fish oil, when combined with exercise, increases the amount of weight lost, over those that only worked out (and didn’t take fish oil), or those that only took fish oil (and didn’t work out)!

How much should I take? The general recommend dosage is 1-3 grams per day. Now, not all fish oil supplements are created equal and there is a flood of poor quality and dangerous fish oil supplements on the market. I have personally done a ton of research on different brands of fish oil and have found that you need to check for numerous quality standards before buying and taking a fish oil product. Here is a quick list of what I look for before buying an Omega 3 supplement:

  • Contaminant Free (PCBs, Mercury, or other heavy metals)
  • The product needs to be 3rd Party Tested for Quality Sourced from small, cold water fish
  • Meets or exceeds international standards for quality
  • Transported and bottled in light resistant containers (the sun can oxidize the fish oil)

The good news is, we have an incredibly high quality and cost effective source of fish oil at ITF – Stronger, Faster, Healthier’s version of fish oil meets and exceeds all the above quality standards. Other brands you may find around town that have the same high standards would include Nordic Naturals (their ProOmega line) and Carlson’s Fish Oils. If you have a question about a product you are already taking, be sure to ask your coach!

These statements have not been approved by the FDA and are not intended to treat, prevent or cure any diseases or illnesses.