I’ve blogged before about how concentrated, high quality fish oil is really good for you. It can help reduce inflammation and is good for your heart, in contrast to over the counter anti-inflammatories that can drastically raise your sudden death heart attack risk. A recent study shows that high dose EPA fish oil improves exercise and may make you a better athlete by increasing your oxygen transfer.
Fish oil contains good omega-3 fatty acids that help to counter bad omega 6 fatty acids. It contains two main components, EPA (aka eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (aka docosahexaenoic acid). Suffice it to say that EPA is a good natural anti-inflammatory and DHA is good for nerve health.
The main problem with the junk fish oil you can get cheaply at the grocery store or at CostCo is that recent studies have shown it doesn’t have the same health benefits as the more expensive concentrated fish oils. This is because the health benefits of fish oils were first noticed in Greenland Eskimos who eat huge amounts of fish garnished with fish oil.
So to get to those same levels without doing the same thing (fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner garnished with fish oil), you have to concentrate the oil and then convert it back to it’s natural triglyceride form. This is the more expensive stuff you see for sale, not the cheap stuff. The research used the expensive fish oil with the idea that supplementing high levels would increase oxygen transfer to the tissues during exercise. Twenty men were randomly assigned to two groups of ten: a fish oil group and a control (CG). The researchers then measured the maximal oxygen uptake and oxygen uptake during exercise. The fish oil group took fish oil capsules containing 3.6 g/day of EPA-rich fish oil, while the CG took 3.6 g/day of a triglyceride fat. The researchers found elevated EPA and DHA levels in the red blood cells of the fish oil group. The more EPA they found in the cells, the better the subject was at transferring oxygen to the tissues during exercise.
The upshot? While we’ve known that fish oil was a great anti-inflammatory with good health fringe benefits, who knew fish oil improves exercise and could also help you be a better athlete? While this is a small study, it’s should get the attention of many pro athletes and weekend warriors. How much fish oil is this? For a highly concentrated brand, like Nordic naturals ProEPA that contains about 1,200 mg of omega 3’s per capsule, it’s six pills a day.