We all need fish oil. Unless, of course, you are allergic to fish in which case you need some other source for your omega-3s (such as flaxseed oil, walnut oil, green leafy vegetables, hemp or algae). Personally, I’m a fan of getting omega-3s from fish oil.
If you are lifting weights but you aren’t getting sufficient omega-3 then you shouldn’t move onto step two in trying to get your nutrition right until you’ve sorted out this king of the supplements.
Why is fish oil important?
Fish oil contains lots of the functional fatty acids known as omega-3s. These come in two key forms – EPA and DHA. Through various studies these have been shown to:
- improve heart health
- lubricate joints, removing joint pain
- help with fat loss – yes, really!
- improved mental health.
I’m not going to regurgitate well-written information that is readily available on the internet about this, so instead I’ll point you in the direction of an article written by Mike Roussellwhich gives you lots of the nitty-gritty behind these fantastical claims.
When you’ve finished that one, you’ll find that there’s even more in a summary by Chris Shugart. This second article summarises all the latest research into these functional fatty acids.
How much fish oil should I be taking?
There’s lots of varied advice on how much omega-3 you need but here are the views of a few experts I believe are worth listening to:
Christian Thibaudeau– For body composition purposes Thibaudeau recommends 1g of fish oil per percent of body fat. So if you have an 18% body fat then you should be taking 18g of fish oil. My only concern over this is whether he really means fish oil, or whether he means omega-3 instead. The two are not quite the same thing, as I’ll explain later.
Chad Waterbury – In one of his articles about figure athletes, Chad recommends 1g of omega-3 per day for every 10 pounds of lean body mass. This is the method I used to calculate my omega-3 requirements during my latest cutting phase.
Lonnie Lowery – Dr Lowery only takes 3-6 fish oil capsules a day. Even by my book that seems to be at the light end of the spectrum, but I suppose a small amount is better than none at all. However, this approach doesn’t account for the potency of the brand you use. For example, if I took 3 capsules of my supermarket own brand I would only get 360mg of omega-3, but if I took 3 capsules of my preferred brand I would be getting 2,100mg of omega-3.
Dan John – I first started taking fish oil following a simple approach recommended by Dan John. Unfortunately I can’t find the original article any more, but the principle was to start with a relatively small number of capsules per day and then add a capsule a day. One day you’ll find that your bowels are liquid. At that point reduce the fish oil capsules by one and use this total as your daily intake. The liquidity of the bowels is caused by the oil itself, so if you change brands then you may find you need to change the number of capsules you take and you’ll find you can get more omega-3 in if you use a higher potency capsule.
Is 1,000mg fish oil every morning and evening enough?
As I mentioned before, the active omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are principally DPA and EPA. The catch is that every fish oil tablet has a different level of omega-3s so you need to take care to read the label. A basic comparison of all the brands on the shelf in your local supermarket will show you that there can be a big variance in the total omega-3s despite the amount of fish oil being the same.
But by any of the opinions given above, two 1,000mg fish oil capsules is not going to contain anywhere near enough omega-3 for your daily intake.
How can I take more fish oil without going bankrupt?
I’ve found that just taking fish oil capsules is expensive. Certainly in the quantities I would like to be taking. In comparison, liquid cod liver oil in a bottle is often much cheaper and is also often more potent. There’s a couple of snagging problems though.
- There’s a lot of vitamin A in cod liver oil, so you probably don’t want too much of it each day.
- It tastes foul when taken by the spoonful.
To address the first issue I take a combination of fish oil capsules and cod liver oil liquid. At the moment I’m taking 10 fish oil capsules a day and 10ml of liquid.
Problem number two is also easily overcome if you start adding it to meals. The easiest meal I found to add it to is my daily tuna snack. You never notice the extra fishiness when it’s mixed in with tuna. I’ve seen others advocating putting a spoonful over almost any dinner or snack – chilli, bolognese, the helping of spinach you have with your dinner…
So now that you are fired up with all this extra information on the need to take plenty of omega-3s, isn’t it time to get out there, check the labels on your current fish oil pills, and work out if you need more?