Fatty fish, like salmon, sardines, and herring contain omega-3 fatty acids that are good for your heart. Thanks to their anti-inflammatory effects. Evidence also shows that an omega-3 rich diet helps stabilize your mood and reduce your blood pressure. Now there is another reason to make these heart-healthy fats a part of your daily diet. A study published in the January 2012 issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that omega-3 fats may enhance your muscle strength and help you derive extra benefits from your strength-training program as you get older. And, getting physically stronger can help you add years to your life.
How Omega-3 Fatty Acids Boost Muscle Strength?
Researchers conducting the study asked 45 older women, with an average age of 65, to undergo a strength-training program for about 90 days. Women were separated into three groups. The first group consumed a 2-gram fish oil supplement per day. The second group consumed a 2-gram fish oil supplement 60 days before the start of the strength-training program and continued taking the supplement throughout the program. The third group did not take the supplements but actively participated in similar strength workouts.
Women who took fish oil supplements experienced greater improvements in their functional capacity and muscle strength than women who avoided the supplements completely.
Omega-3 Fats, Decrease in Muscle Strength and Aging
As you age, you lose muscle mass as well as muscle strength. However, combining an omega-3 rich diet with regular strength training can help you prevent age-related decline in muscle loss. Strength training improves muscle size and strength. Not to mention that having more muscles could rev up your resting metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories throughout your day.
Animal research shows that omega-3 fats bring cortisol levels down to normal. High cortisol levels put the brakes on the cell regeneration and healing process. Also, a study involving men found that fish oil supplementation decreases the number of cortisol levels influenced by mental stress. Exhausting exercise and stress shoot up the levels of cortisol in your body. Cortisol exhibits a catabolic effect, stimulating the breakdown of the muscle proteins during periods of low blood sugar and stress so the liver can employ them to form glucose. With too much cortisol, you can have trouble building muscles. Keeping cortisol levels at bay benefits you if you are striving to gain lean body mass.
Fish oil supplementation has also been found to improve insulin sensitivity (the ability of cells to absorb glucose) by enhancing the levels of a protein, which is generated by adiponectin fat cells. In addition to improving insulin sensitivity, adiponectin boosts your metabolism and curbs your appetite, thereby enhancing your body composition.
Is It Best to Get Omega-3 Fats and Fish Oil Through Diet or Supplements?
For maximum health benefits, take fish oil through diet. Fish oil capsules containing omega-3 fats may lead to oxidative damage and rancidity if exposed to air or light or stored in a warm environment. To make beneficial omega-3 fats work for you, it is necessary to eat a few servings of fish to get the quantities used in these studies.
However, you may not need to consume that much fish to gain similar benefits. Your body does not adequately absorb EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) – omega-3s – found in fish oil capsules, but absorbs omega-3 fats found naturally in fish well. Hence, consuming 2-4 servings of wild salmon a week will provide you with equivalent benefits. Choose wild fatty fish instead of the farmed one, as farmed fish is high in harmful toxins and low in omega-3 fats. Remember, it is highly advantageous to get nutrients the natural way instead of in a supplement.
In case you opt for fish oil supplements, choose molecularly distilled fish oils and purchase them from a reputable manufacturer. Fish oils produced by molecular distillation process are toxin-free. Store the supplements in a cool, dry place and keep them away from light.
The Bottom Line
If feasible, get your benefits of omega-3 fats through diet. If not, purchase the fish oil supplement from a reliable company and do not consume more than 2 grams per day. No studies have been reported so far that shows that you will get health benefits by consuming more than this dose except under certain conditions such as high triglyceride levels.
As omega-3 supplements exhibit blood-thinning properties, they may pose a problem for people ingesting aspirin or blood-thinners. By contrast, heart-healthy omega-3 fats help improve your body composition and muscle strength in addition to reducing inflammation.
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