Fish oil. You’ve probably heard of it. You may even supplement with it. But are you aware of the many benefits that it provides? Let’s take a look at some of the lesser-known benefits of fish oil that may help you reach your bodybuilding goals.
What is Fish Oil, Anyway?
Fish oil is exactly that—it’s the oil extracted from the tissue of fish. When you consume oily fish—such as salmon, albacore tuna, lake trout, anchovies, and mackerel—you’re consuming fish oil. And that’s a good thing. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fatty fish per week. That’s because fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, or the heart-healthy fats our bodies need.
Other foods also contain omega-3 fatty acids, but the omega-3s in fish oil are the most bio-available kind. So while you can get omega-3s from foods like flaxseed, walnuts, and soy, you may want to consider supplementing with fish oil if you avoid eating fish itself. Even if you do eat fish, you may want additional omega-3s in your diet. To determine the specific amount for you based on your personal health and fitness goals, your best bet is to consult a nutritionist.
Five Benefits of Fish Oil for Bodybuilders
Fish oil is a popular dietary supplement for good reason. It’s thought to have a positive impact on heart, brain, eye, and skin health. But the benefits of fish oil and fish oil supplements also extend beyond general health to bodybuilding. Here are five important benefits of fish oil in bodybuilding.
1) Improve Body Composition
Want to gain lean muscle and lose fat? Fish oil may be a part of the answer. This study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition shows that supplementation with fish oil, as compared with a placebo of safflower oil, significantly increased lean muscle mass and decreased fat mass.
2) Boost Metabolism
Studies (like this one) show a correlation between fish oil supplementation and increased metabolism. Granted, this is a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation—it’s not certain whether metabolism increased because of the fish oil supplementation, or because of the related increase in lean muscle mass (higher muscle mass typically correlates to higher metabolism). Regardless, the result is a positive one for anyone looking to tone up and improve their body composition.
3) Increase Protein Synthesis
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help promote muscle protein synthesis, aiding the conversion of dietary protein into muscle-building fuel. This study out of Washington University shows how omega-3s help enhance the body’s muscle-building response—which means fish oil can help with bodybuilding, as well as recovery from any athletic endeavor.
4) Enhance Performance
Another interesting benefit of fish oil is that it’s been shown to reduce heart rate and oxygen consumption during exercise. One study of a group of highly fit cyclists showed that fish oil supplementation reduced whole-body and oxygen demand during exercise, without a decrease in performance. Bottom line: fish oil may allow you to “do the work” with less stress to your body—and gain an advantage over your competitors.
5) Aid Recovery
Fish oil is often used to help reduce joint pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis. That’s because it has an anti-inflammatory effect—which is beneficial to bodybuilders and other athletes alike. This study shows a specific relationship between omega-3 supplementation and reduced inflammation following strength training. By decreasing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), fish oil can help you recover better and get ready to train hard again sooner.
Ready to try fish oil? The studies mentioned above certainly point to positive potential benefits of fish oil supplements for bodybuilders. Again, as with any dietary planning, we recommend consulting a nutritionist to determine your specific needs, based on your health and fitness goals. If you consume a lot of oily fish already, you may not need additional omega-3 supplementation. But if you don’t eat fish, it’s possible that adding fish oil supplements to your nutrition plan may help boost your bodybuilding efforts through improved body composition, performance, and recovery.
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