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Muscle & Strength Builders

The Facts On Fish Oil

There’s nothing fishy about it: Tides of research confirm fish oil will make you leaner, bigger, stronger and healthier.

Fish oil is swimming in benefits, and boatloads of studies support it. Here, we share six noteworthy (and sound) facts about how this super supplement can help you achieve your goals.

Fact 1: Fish Oil Fights Fat

Although eating fat is considered in some circles to be a diet buster, supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids will actually help you peel off pounds. Research conducted at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania found that subjects who supplemented with 4 grams of fish oil for six weeks lost considerably more body fat and gained more muscle mass, without exercising, than those who supplemented with the same dose of safflower oil (an omega-6 fatty acid). 

Moreover, the fish-oil group showed a significant drop in levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol has been shown to blunt fat burning and encourage fat storage and the breakdown of muscle tissue. It also blocks the uptake of testosterone, resulting in lower overall testosterone levels. Researchers from the University of Washington Medical Center found that men with low testosterone levels are more likely to sport wider waistlines and carry more body fat overall.

Fact 2: Fish Oil Makes You Anabolic

Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil also can help boost protein synthesis (muscle growth), according to research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Researchers examined the effects of 4 grams of fish oil per day on protein synthesis and key signaling pathways related to muscle growth in healthy adults ages 25 to 45 during a period of eight weeks. The subjects in the fish oil group experienced a significant increase in protein synthesis, while those who took corn oil (the placebo) did not. 

Fact 3: Fish Oil Lifts Strength

Looking to get stronger in the gym? Taking fish oil can send your strength skyrocketing, too. In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers randomly assigned 45 women to one of three groups. One group performed strength training only for 90 days, whereas the others performed the same strength-training program and were given 2 grams of fish oil per day for 90 days or for 150 days. (The 150-day group started taking fish oil 60 days before starting the strength-training program.) All the subjects who took fish oil saw a significant boost in muscle strength and functional capacity (how well they performed tasks related to strength, endurance, speed and flexibility), regardless of when they started taking it. Bottom line: Supplementing with fish oil can have a near-immediate beneficial impact on strength.

Fact 4: Fish Oil Reduces Inflammation

Inflammation is the metabolic flame that feeds a number of chronic conditions, from arthritis to heart disease and stroke and more. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil thwart the body’s inflammatory response in two ways: First, they significantly reduce the release of several pro-inflammatory substances like cytokines (infection-fighting proteins). Second, they form the building blocks for several hormone-like substances, like prostaglandins, that help protect the body from inflammatory assault. One study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity that gauged the impact of consuming more fish oil showed a marked reduction in inflammation in healthy subjects compared to the placebo. Interestingly, the researchers also found fish oil was able to quash stressed-induced anxiety.

And the powerful anti-inflammatory benefits go beyond just chronic inflammation. Fish oil has also been shown to reduce acute inflammatory response, particularly quelling muscle pain after workouts. A recent study conducted at Saint Louis University found that the supplement helped decrease delayed onset muscle soreness following a high-intensity arm workout that employed eccentric training.

Researchers examined post-exercise soreness, swelling and skin temperature to determine the effects of fish oil compared to subjects who did the same exercise without supplementation. Subjects were evaluated on two occasions: once after 14 days on a low-omega-3-fatty-acid diet and again after seven days of omega-3-fatty-acid supplementation. Results revealed a 15 percent decrease in muscle soreness after taking omega-3s. 

Fact 5: Fish Oil Boosts Brainpower

Because more than half of your brain is made up of fat, and about 30 percent of that fat is the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid, it’s no wonder that fish oil keeps the brain sharp. Researchers from one study published in Neurology found that subjects who supplemented with fish scored higher on tests of visual memory and executive function, such as problem solving, multitasking and abstract thinking.

Interestingly, researchers also noted the fish oil group had higher brain volume in two critical areas — the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus (critical to memory and thinking) — compared to those who had lower DHA levels. When DHA is scarce, the brain must resort to using substandard fats, which makes optimal functioning next to impossible. As a result, numerous cognitive glitches arise, including loss of memory, difficulty concentrating, intellectual impairment and even shrinking of brain cells (dementia).

Fact 6: Fish Oil Improves Mood

In addition to boosting brainpower, fish oil also may make you happier. Numerous studies link higher levels of omega-3s and frequent consumption of fish with decreased risk of depression. According to research published in The British Journal of Psychiatry, supplementing with fish oil can help keep your mood in check, warding off depression as you embrace a sunnier disposition. Researchers gave subjects 1 gram of eicosapentaenoic acid daily for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, subjects’ depression scores fell by a whopping 50 percent. We’ve all heard the saying “Happy people are healthier!” But happiness doesn’t just mean good health; it leaves you feeling fulfilled, which makes you far more efficient and productive.