As an athlete, you don't want your performance to be hindered by creaky and stiff joints, pain, inflammation, or other conditions—they can be detrimental to your performance, and potentially your career.

And if you already spend hours stretching and foam rolling, then you know how tedious upkeep and recovery can be.

How do you avoid that?

Get yourself some EFAs. They're a game-changer.

And it's safe to say that an EFA supplement is something that should be non-negotiable, whether you're an athlete or not.

Luckily, the best Omega-3 supplements in 2020 help you reach your daily intake of EFAs with ease.

What are Omega-3s?

Omega 3s, also called essential fatty acids, are a type of polyunsaturated fat that the body cannot produce, so it must be obtained through diet or supplements.

The two we most frequently hear about are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These both play several critical roles in the body.

Plant-based Omega-3s

Plant-based omega-3s are generally sourced from algae—a sustainable, environmentally friendly, potent source of EPA and DHA. Algae is one of the cleanest, purest, and most sustainable options for EFAs.

However, if you see any that are ALA-based, don't bother. While ALA can be converted to EPA and DHA, the conversion rate is highly inefficient, so it's not worth your time or money.

Fish Oil Omega-3s

Marine omega-3s, commonly seen as fish oils, are omega-3s sourced from fish, usually sardines, herring, and anchovies, whereby the oils are extracted from their tissues.

The problem with fish oil supplements is that they have a high potential for rancidity, they're low potency, have poor sourcing, are contaminated with heavy metals and pesticides, and are harvested in an unsustainable manner.

Why Omega-3s are Essential for Athletes

Daily, you probably put your body through hell and high water training several times a day, on top of everything else you have to accomplish.

And while you may be serious about recovery practices, incorporating an omega-3 supplement into your probably pre-existing supplement regime should be no sweat.

If you're not taking one, here's why you should be:

They Support Your Nervous System

The nervous system is the basis for your body function. If it's not working correctly, your body won't function optimally, and your performance is definitely going to suffer.

EFAs are an essential component of phospholipids that make up neuronal cell membranes and help to regulate membrane fluidity 1.

If your nervous system isn't performing optimally, it can't send signals to increase blood flow and oxygen supply to working skeletal muscles, leaving you feeling weak and exhausted 2.

They Boost Brain Health

Have you been hit in the head one too many times? An omega-3 supplement could help that.

While it won't protect your noggin from future hits (that's on you), polyunsaturated fats like EPA and DHA are neuroprotective.

A growing body of evidence points towards the benefit of EPA on mood, and DHA maintaining brain health and reducing the development of neurodegenerative disorders 3.

The combination of both EPA and DHA also appears to improve working memory, immediate verbal memory, and delayed recall memory 3.

Your brain is composed of over 60% fat, so just like the principle of homeopathic medicine suggests, treat like with like 4.

They Improve Your Vision

Your eyes are a critical part of your role as an athlete. Whether you're looking for an opponent coming to check you, or looking to see where to pass the ball, you need to protect your eyes.

DHA is concentrated in the retina of the eyes, and supplementation with it may help to protect the retina, reducing the risk of developing age-related macular degenerative disease.

It also helps to maintain the function of rhodopsin, a compound that enables low-light vision.

They Reduce Inflammation

Both EPA and DHA are known to be potent anti-inflammatories, and that's key with physical activity.

Every time you exercise, you cause micro-tears in your muscles that need to be repaired. And within this repair process is inflammation.

But not only this, the free radicals that are naturally produced by skeletal muscle during high-intensity exercise also increase levels of inflammation in the body, but not the good kind 2.

And when this doesn't subside, inflammation becomes chronic. Chronic inflammation not only impedes on your performance but also increases the risk of developing more serious chronic inflammatory conditions.

Omega-3s combat this by decreasing markers of inflammation like PGE2, leukotrienes, thromboxane, and prostacyclin.

They also increase the production of endogenous antioxidant enzymes such as catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and superoxide dismutase 5.

Not only that, but reducing inflammation is key to keeping your cardiovascular system healthy, which enables you to keep performing as you do.

Excess inflammation can lead to damage of blood vessels, which increases your risk of cardiovascular disease 6.

They Boost Your Recovery

And finally, we get to one of the most critical aspects of your performance as an athlete.

You can eat healthily and exercise all you want, but if you're not recovering properly, your performance won't be where you want it.

Research shows that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids helps to attenuate loss of muscle strength and improves range of motion.

It also minimizes delayed-onset muscle soreness that results from strenuous eccentric strength exercise and maintaining proper muscle function after eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage 7, 8.

Did you ever think a capsule could do all that?

How Much Omega-3 Should I Be Taking?

For most athletes, a minimum of 1-2g per day of EPA/DHA is enough to see improvements, at a ratio of EPA:DHA of 2:1 5.

However, one study found that supplementing female soccer players with 3.5g of DHA-rich fish oil for four weeks improved complex reaction time and efficiency.

This supports the view that DHA may be beneficial for athletes to improve perceptual-motor activity and decision-making 2.

Another study found that 1.75g of EPA and 1.05g of DHA per day for three weeks attenuated rise in acute-phase proteins occurring after exercise, and may also reduce post-exercise immunosuppression 9, 10.

And to reduce muscle soreness, one study showed that 2,000mg of EPA and 1,000mg of DHA taken daily over seven days helped to reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness 8.

Based on available research, a dose of 3g (3,000mg) or more, with a minimum of 2g (2,000mg) coming from EPA and 1g (1,000mg) coming from DHA, helps to improve physical performance and enhance recovery in athletes.

Now that you know how much you should take, what should you be looking for?

Finding the Right Omega-3 Supplement

Performance Lab Omega 3 is designed for performance—plain and simple.

It's a clean, pure, and 100% plant-based omega-3 supplement derived from algae that contains the ideal ratio of DHA:EPA to support athletic performance.

It's produced from non-GMO algae, contains no toxins or harsh contaminants, and is highly environmentally friendly and sustainable.

References

  1. D Swanson, R Block, SA Mousa. Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: health benefits throughout life. Adv Nutr. 2012; 3(1): 1-7.
  2. MA Gammone, G Riccioni, G Parrinello, N D'Orazio. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Benefits and Endpoints in Sport. Nutrients. 2018; 11(1): 46.
  3. SC Dyall. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA and DHA. Front Aging Neurosci. 2015; 7: 52.
  4. CY Chang, DS Ke, JY Chen. Essential fatty acids and human brain. Acta Neurol Taiwan. 2009 Dec; 18(4): 231-241.
  5. AP Simopoulos. Omega-3 fatty acids and athletics. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2007 Jul; 6(4): 230-236.
  6. A Mohebi-Neja, B Bikdeli. Omega-3 supplements and cardiovascular diseases. Tanaffos. 2014; 13(1): 6-14.
  7. RJ Shei, MR Lindley, TD Mickleborough. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in the Optimization of Physical Performance. Military Medicine. 2014 Nov; 179(11): 144–156.
  8. KB Jouris, JL McDaniel, EP Weiss. The Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation on the Inflammatory Response to eccentric strength exercise. J Sports Sci Med. 2011 SEP; 10(3): 432-438.
  9. E Ernst, T Saradeth, G Achhammer. n-3 fatty acids and acute-phase proteins. Eur J Clin Invest. 1991 Feb; 21(1): 77-82.
  10. C Benquet, K Krzystyniak, R Savard, F Guertin, D Oth, M Fournier. Modulation of exercise-induced immunosuppression by dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids in mice. J Toxicol Environ Health. 1994 Oct; 43(2): 225-37.