Fish Oil Supplements

Fish Oil Supplements
Don't miss the boat on a critical supplement that boasts numerous health, physique and performance benefits.

If you've been following my advice for a while, you should know that I'm a big believer in the benefits of fish oil.

The well-known health benefits of fish oil include a reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, and cancers, as well as an ability to elevate mood and boost brain function. But now new research on fish oil is uncovering a plethora of unexpected health benefits, and even discovering their ability to boost muscle growth, shed body fat and enhance athletic performance.

The major components in fish oil that provide all the benefits are essential fats known as omega-3 fats.

Essential means that our body can not produce these fats on its own and must get them from our diet. The two types of omega-3 fats in fish oil are known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and doco-sahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is thought to be the real MVP here that provides the majority of benefits of these omega-3 fats. In fact, EPA gets readily converted into DHA in the body. DHA then does it's magic, such as producing beneficial anti-inflammatory hormones. However, new research is now showing that both DHA and EPA work to turn on beneficial genes and turn off harmful ones.

A recent study from the National Taiwan University found that the omega-3 fats from fish oil turned on genes that fat burning by the body, while turning off genes that led to fat storage.

In addition, they found that these fats also turned on genes that aided glucose uptake and storage by the muscles. In a nutshell this is one way that these healthy fats aid in keeping body fat off, as well as preserving cardiovascular health, and preventing diabetes.

While the brain boosting benefits of the omega-3's were thought to work mainly by reducing the degeneration of the brain with excessive age, new research shows benefits to those in middle age.

University of Pittsburgh researchers recently reported that in adults age 35-54, the higher their blood levels of DHA, the better their performance on tests of nonverbal reasoning and mental flexibility, working memory, and vocabulary. These same researchers found in an earlier study that young adults consuming the highest amounts of omega-3 fats had greater volume of brain areas related to memory and mood.

But that doesn't mean that omega-3 fats do not offer age-fighting benefits.

In fact, one new study from the University of California, San Francisco suggests that omega-3 fats may slow down aging. Without boring you too much with the biochemistry of aging, one mechanism responsible for aging is the shortening of telomeres. Telomeres prevent chromosomes from fusing with each other or rearranging, which can lead to cancer. Over time the telomeres gradually shorten until they essentially disappear and the cell dies. The researchers found that in overt 600 subjects, the higher their blood levels of omega-3 fats, the greater the reduction in risk of telomere shortening. They suggested that this benefit is likely due to the omega-3 fats ability to limit oxidative damage to cells.

Strangely enough, the omega-3 fats may even benefit your oral health.

Japanese researchers followed 55 people over the course of five years and discovered that the average number of dental disease events was 1.5 times higher in those with the lowest intake of the DHA. The researchers suggested that while they don't know exactly why the intake of omega-3 was associated with lower dental disease, but that it is likely due to the anti-inflammatory effect of the omega-3 fats. If that weren't strange enough, the anti-inflammatory benefits of the omega-3's may also lead to better sperm quality. Iranian researchers found that fertile men had significantly higher blood and sperm levels of omega-3's than infertile men.

While all this discussion on the health benefits of fish oil is important, I know the main reason you follow my advice is to get bigger, stronger and leaner.

And yes, fish oil can really help you there too. As I already discussed above, we now know that the omega-3 fats from fish oil can turn on genes that increase fat burning, while turning off genes that increase fat storage. And that can lead to greater fat loss down the road, as studies have shown. In fact, research published in the British Journal of Nutrition reported that the subjects with the highest blood levels of omega-3 fats had least body fat, smallest waist size, and lowest hip circumference.

A more recent study found that not only did supplementing with fish oil aid fat loss, but it simultaneously increased muscle mass.

Researchers from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, found that subjects taking 4 grams of fish oil per day for six weeks lost 1 pound of body fat, while simultaneously gaining 1 pound of muscle, despite not changing their diet and not exercising. This may not seem like huge changes, but imagine if they were following a proper diet and exercise program like you are.

Although the researchers were sure why the subjects gained muscle with fish oil supplements, they did find lower cortisol levels with the fish oil group.

Since cortisol can break down muscle and interfere with testoterone, this could lead to greater muscle growth. Yet, another study from Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis suggests that omega-3 fats may increase muscle protein synthesis, the process of building up muscle protein from amino acids, which leads to muscle growth. They gave older subjects either 4 grams of fish oil or corn oil and reported in a 2011 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that those receiving the fish oil experienced a greater boost in muscle protein synthesis when they ate protein and carbs. In other words, fish oil may help you put those pre and postworkout meals to better use.

Another way that fish oil may help you build bigger, stronger muscles and lose body fat is through it's ability to help you train harder for longer.

One study, by Iranian researchers, reported that male wrestlers supplementing with fish oil for 12 weeks while training experienced a significant improvement in lung function and capacity. The better the lungs work and the more air they can take in, the greater the oxygen delivery to your muscles. That allows for better endurance and recovery between sets, which all leads to better results in the gym.

Speaking of endurance, another way that fish oil may boost it, is by increasing levels of nitric oxide (NO).

NO widens blood vessels, which allows more oxygen and nutrients to get to your muscles. Numerous studies show that NO-boosting supplements increase energy during workouts. Now you can add fish oil to that list of NO boosters. UK researchers found that when the fed subjects a meal rich in omega-3 fats, their blood vessels were much less stiff and more flexible than when they had a meal without omega-3's. They concluded that this was due to the omega-3's ability to boost NO levels.

And yet another way that omega-3 fats enhance endurance I already discussed – turning on genes that increase fat burning and glucose storage.

By burning more fat throughout the day and storing more glucose as glycogen your muscles have higher levels of glycogen, which is a critical energy source during exercise. The omega-3's also enable more fat to be burned during exercise, sparing the stored glycogen, which allows you to be stronger for longer during weight workouts and cardio. Additionally, all that extra glycogen that gets stored in your muscles makes for bigger, fuller muscles. That's because glycogen pulls water into the muscles, filing them up much like a water balloon. That places a stretch on the membranes of the muscle cells and instigates processes that lead to long term muscle growth.

To make sure that you're getting ample amounts of omega-3 fats so you can take advantage of all these benefits, take 2-3 grams of fish oil with meals, two to three times per day.


Chong, M.F., et al. Long chain n-3 PUFA-rich meal reduced postprandial measures of arterial stiffness. Clin Nutr 29(5):678-681, 2010.

Conklin, S. M., et al. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acid intake is associated positively with corticolimbic gray matter volume in healthy adults. Neurosci Lett 421(3):209-12, 2007.

Farzaneh-Far, R. Association of Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels With Telomeric Aging in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease. Journal of the American Medical Association 303(3):250-257, 2010.

Iwasaki, M., et al. Longitudinal relationship between dietary ω-3 fatty acids and periodontal disease. Nutrition, in press, 2010.

Micallef, M., et al. Plasma n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are negatively associated with obesity. British Journal of Nutrition 102(9):1370-1374, 2009.

Muldoon, M. F., et al. Serum Phospholipid Docosahexaenonic Acid Is Associated with Cognitive Functioning during Middle Adulthood. Journal of Nutrition 140(4):848-53, 2010.

Noreen, E. E., et al. Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 7:31, 2010.

Smith, G. I., et al. Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 93(2):402-412, 2011.

Tartibian, B., et al. "The effects of omega-3 supplementation on pulmonary function of young wrestlers during intensive training." J Sci Med Sport. 2010 Mar;13(2):281-6.

Yu, Y. H., et al. The function of porcine PPARγ and dietary fish oil effect on the expression of lipid and glucose metabolism related genes. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 22(2):179-186, 2011.


Have Jim Stoppani be your Personal Trainer!

More Articles