Essential fatty acids (EFAs) have received much attention in recent years for their many health benefits. EFAs have a symbiotic relationship in the body, so none of them work well without all three being present. Modern research shows that the most beneficial ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid is 1:1. However, typical Western diets are extremely high in omega-6 while lacking in omega-3, and omega-9 is derived from the other two fatty acids.
Supplements for Muscle Building
Omega-3 FAs are classed as an essential nutrient, which means they cannot be produced in the body and must be consumed in food or supplements. They are sometimes referred to as polyunsaturated fatty acids, or “”good”” fats. Omega-3 is further divided into three basic types. Alpha-linolenic acids (ALAs) are converted into the other two types of omega-3 fatty acids that are more usable by the body, eicosapentaenoic acids (EPAs) and docosahexaenoic acids (DHAs).
Research has shown that omega-3 EFAs reduce inflammation in the entire body, and are especially useful for the inflammation that occurs with injuries, including the normal muscle breakdown that occurs after an intense workout. These acids also play an important role in performance and memory, since the brain has a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. They have been shown to help with fat loss and are essential to muscle repair.
Rich food sources of omega-3 include flax seeds, chia seeds, avocados, hemp seeds, and walnuts, and cold-water fish, including sardines, salmon, anchovies, and mackerel, krill oil, cod liver oil, fish oil, grass-fed beef, and cage-free eggs. Krill oil is especially effective because it is easily absorbed into brain tissue. Grass-fed beef has up to twice as much omega-3 as grain fed beef.
Allergic reaction to omega-3 is rare, but it could include diarrhea, bleeding, and gas. Omega-3 supplements do have possible drug interactions, especially with cholesterol-lowering medications, anti-inflammatories, blood thinning medications, steroids, blood sugar medications, and medications prescribed after an organ transplant. Please consult your physician before supplementing with omega-3.
Omega-6 for Muscle Building
Omega-6 FAs are also essential nutrients, and are another type of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Among other roles in the body,these fatty acids regulate metabolism and maintain bone health. Omega-6 fatty acids are divided into several types. Linoleic acid (LA) is consumed in vegetable oils and then the body converts these into gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which is broken down into arachidonic acid (AA or ARA). In the body, AA is abundant in the muscles, brain, and liver, and is necessary for skeletal muscle tissue repair and growth.
In studies, AA was shown to regulate inflammation caused by muscle injury and breakdown, and improves muscle endurance and power, and may play a role in optimizing metabolism.
Most people consume enough omega-6 in their normal diets. Dietary sources of omega-6 fatty acids include meat and dairy. Most processed foods contain an elevated level of omega-6 due to the types of vegetable oils used in processing.
The American Heart Association recommends a diet consisting of 5 to 10% of calories from omega-6 fats, including AA. Omega-6 supplementation is not recommended for persons suffering with active inflammatory diseases or joint pain.
Omega-9 fatty acids are monounsaturated fats, which are not an essential nutrient since the body can produce it as long as there are sufficient amounts of omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-9 lowers cholesterol levels and is essential for promoting healthy inflammation responses. Food sources of omega-9 include olive oil, avocados, nuts, all leaves, and sesame oil.
While all the essential fatty acids are important, most Westerners are lacking only in omega-3s. Supplementing or adding omega-3 rich foods can not only help muscle strength and endurance, but can also help performance and cognition.