Exercise physiologist Dr. John Berardi is a serious scientific researcher and a fitness coach for some of Canada's Olympic teams. He is probably best known, however, for his program "Scrawny to Brawny" which became "Precision Nutrition." One of Dr. Berardi's recommendations is for athletes to take fish oil.
Fish Oil for Fighting Inflammation
The most basic reason for taking fish oil, Berardi says, is to fight inflammation. If muscles ache two days, three days, a week, or a month after a workout, athletes will skip training and muscle gains will be lost. Fish oil has an advantage over aspirin and other over-the-counter anti-inflammatories in that it won't cause stomach upset, and it helps the body make hormones that fight the effects of physical as well as emotional stress.
How Much Fish Oil do Athletes Need to Take?
A good place to start is with a dosage of about 5,000 mg, or 5 capsules, of a high-quality fish oil. A product that contains at least 300 mg of the essential fatty acids DHA and EPA in each capsule probably will not contain any of the marine liquids that can cause fishy burps, fish breath, and diarrhea. If your purpose in athletic training is to look good and feel good, you want to smell good, too.
Fish Oil for Losing Weight When You Exercise
If you aren't an athlete, you may want to take fish oil for a different reason. Fish oil helps people who exercise lose fat at the same time they gain muscle.
Scientists associated with the University of Southern Australia in Adelaide recruited people to agree to exercise three times a week for 45 minutes at 75% of their maximum cardiovascular capacity. Half of the volunteers took fish oil capsules providing 1560 mg of DHA and 360 mg of EPA every day, while half of the volunteers took a placebo with equal caloric content.
At the end of 12 weeks, all of the volunteers had lost weight, but only the volunteers who took fish oil in addition to working out gained muscle. The other group lost weight from both muscle and fat.
Fish Oil for Losing Weight Even If You Don't Exercise
Scientists at the University of Western Ontario, where Berardi is on faculty, got even more exciting results by giving fish oil to people who did not exercise. People who took fish oil for a month lost an average of 2 pounds (about a kilo) even without exercise. While this is equivalent to burning 300 to 400 calories, fish oil probably does not boost metabolism. Probably the users of fish oil were able to shed "water weight" locked in fatty tissue that is usually resistant to dietary measures.
Should you Take Fish Oil? And What Kind of Fish Oil Should You Take?
Different brands of fish oil contain different ratios of essential fatty acids. For support of muscle gain and fat loss, the more important fatty acid seems to be DHA. A brand of fish oil that has a relatively high percentage of DHA is Xtend-Life. This brand is my personal recommendation for people who are serious about their exercise.
It is also possible to get DHA from microalgae products, and, nutritionally, they are just fine. The cost per mg of available DHA from microalgae, however, is 5 to 30 times higher than the cost of fish oil. Fish oil is the economical choice for athletes focusing on building muscle mass while fighting fat.