Good things come in threes — musketeers, tenors and stooges, to name, well, three. It should come as no surprise, then, that one of the most important types of dietary fats is omega-3s. While most Americans eat plenty of fat, they tend to come up short on omega-3s because many foods that are higher in dietary fats (ahem, fast food, processed grocery-store junk and anything that’s fried) don’t contain a high ratio of this form of fat. Because there are numerous advantages to emphasizing omega-3s in the diet, most people are missing out. Here are a few reasons to get more omega-3s:
• Omega-3s boost muscle building. It is thought that these fatty acids get incorporated into the membranes of muscle cells, enhancing the integrity of the muscle fibers. Another way they improve muscle mass is by increasing insulin sensitivity in the muscles. Insulin is an anabolic hormone, and increasing the body’s sensitivity to it essentially increases its anabolic actions.
• Omega-3s help reduce body fat. Omega-3s are readily converted to prostaglandins, hormonelike substances that benefit many processes in the body, one of which is to promote fat burning (thermogenesis). The omega-3 fats docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid are also known to turn on genes that promote fat burning while turning off genes that promote fat storage. And because they increase insulin sensitivity, they lower insulin levels, and less insulin means less fat gain and more fat burning.
• Omega-3s enhance joint recovery. Training with heavy weights can take a toll on your joints. The omega-3 fats can help your joints recover better, reducing joint pain and keeping your training on track. They do this through their conversion into prostaglandins, which also reduce inflammation. Less inflammation means better healing.
To gain these advantages, supplement with fish, oil, which has a high ratio of the omega-3s eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. Take 6 to 12 grams of fish oil per day, split into three doses and taken with whole-food meals. In addition, emphasize foods like salmon, trout, sardines, tuna, walnuts and flaxseeds, all of which are high in omega-3 fatty acids.