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Bodybuilding.com Information Motivation Supplementation
in:
Jim Stoppani, Ph.D
JimStoppani

Ask the Supplement Guru

"Do I need to supplement with all the
omega fatty acids, or just omega-3?"

Ask The Supplement Guru: Omega 3 Vs. Omega 3-6-9

Confused about whether you should take an omega-3 or 3-6-9 supplement? The Supplement Guru has your science-backed answer!

Q
I'm convinced that omega-3 supplements are legit. But, is it best to take omega-3 on its own, or as part of an omega 3-6-9 supplement?

I've been getting this question a lot lately. After all, it seems to make sense that getting a variety of healthful and essential fats in one supplement is better than a supplement that is limited to just one type of fat. Nevertheless, my quick answer is to stick with just an omega-3 supplement. The reason isn't a problem with 3-6-9 supplements themselves, but rather with the way most of us eat.

The Alpha Omega

I'm all about matching up the right supplement precisely to the right athlete and his or her goals. However, if there's one supplement that I recommend for anyone and everyone, it's fish oil, or more specifically, the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). And I mean everyone: your grandmother, your father, your sister, your nephew, and even your kids.

Omega-3 supplements provide far too many health benefits to ignore. These include reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, as well as enhanced brain and joint function, just to name a few. They also have muscle-building and fat-loss benefits for athletes. And despite what you may have read in the headlines earlier this year, they're safe.

"Despite what you may have read in the headlines earlier this year, omega-3 supplements are safe."

Like omega-3 fats, omega-6 fats are essential in the diet, and they provide numerous health benefits, but there's a major difference: Because omega-6 fats are commonly found in vegetable oils, nuts, and grain-fed meats, they aren't a fat most Americans are deficient in. This is problematic because, despite being essential, these fats can become downright unhealthy when the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 gets higher than 4:1.

Consistently eating a diet that is higher than this ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats may contribute to the development of heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis, as well as depression. Plus, it can prevent optimal muscle recovery and growth, as well as inhibiting fat loss. Sadly, most American and European diets put people well over this 4:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. When the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is closer to 1:1, the risk of these diseases is significantly decreased, and muscle growth and fat loss are enhanced.

Like the omega-3 and omega-6 fats, the omega-9 fats also provide health benefits, namely anti-inflammatory properties that enhance joint healing and may help prevent numerous diseases. But unlike omega-3 and omega-6, the omega-9 fatty acids are not essential fats. This means that your body can produce them on its own. Plus, the omega-9 fats are also found in olive oil and other vegetable oils. So, if you include olive oil in your diet, which you should, you are likely getting adequate amounts of omega-9 fats.

Supplement What Your Diet Lacks

I understand the reasoning for a 3-6-9 supplement: Since the proper ratio is so important, why not supplement in that ratio? But the truth is that the only thing wrong with most people's omega fats ratio is too little omega-3s. Supplementing with omega-6 fats, even in a 3-6-9, will only further reinforce the bad ratio for them. After all, omega-3-6-9 supplements generally have only 10-20 percent the amount of omega-3 fats as omega-3 fish oil supplements.

My advice is to skip the omega-9 supplements and focus on supplementing with an omega-3, like fish oil. In addition, regularly use olive oil for cooking and in salad dressings. If you do this, you'll get a proper ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats and still take in adequate amounts of omega-9s. Plus you'll get all the benefits that come with these fats.

I recommend taking a minimum of 6 grams of omega-3s in the form of fish oil every day, split between two or three doses of 2-3 g apiece. If you really want to be precise on your dosing, aim to take 1,500 mg of DHA per day. Your fish oil supplement should tell you how much DHA and EPA are in each capsule. Getting in 1,500 mg of DHA will also net you an adequate amount of EPA, which is in higher amounts in fish oil than DHA.


Related Articles

About The Author

Jim holds a doctorate in exercise physiology and has been the personal nutrition and health consultant for numerous celebrity clients...

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billd5

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billd5

this is exactly why I will always listen to what Jim says he breaks it down and explains why. No one else does this and he also does what he says he's tried it. Thanks Jim I always love your advice and look forward to more informative articles like this one.

Jan 9, 2014 6:05pm | report
Mudvayne24

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Mudvayne24

I recommend fish oil to everyone. I should print out this article, give it to all of my customers, and force them to read it.

Jan 9, 2014 7:47pm | report
mjdec

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mjdec

I've always taken Udo's blend which consist of plant based sources. The article focuses on consuming omega 3 from fish oil. Are you saying that you prefer an omega 3 sourced form fish oil?

Jan 9, 2014 7:52pm | report
Mudvayne24

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Mudvayne24

They are different. You have ALA, which will be coming from the plant based items such as flax and chia. Then you have DHA, which you can get from algae sources or fish sources. Lastly you have EPA, which primarily comes from fish sources (you can find a plant based, but it's rare and not very concentrated).

They all provide benefits in the body (which is why I take fish oil and flax oil multiple times a day).

They are all anti-inflammatory, but the EPA seems to be the most popular in that department. Fish oil EPA is much less expensive than a plant source and will be much more concentrated. As long as you get a quality fish oil supplement that has proper distillation or other purifying methods you won't have to worry about the heavy metals populating in the supplement.

The DHA in fish supplements are also a bit more concentrated and are definitely less expensive than the algae sources.

I would never tell you to stop the Udo's because it's a **** good supplement, but you could always add fish oil in with it.

Jan 9, 2014 9:05pm | report
NeroMaj

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NeroMaj

mjdec - ALA (the plant omega-3) has been shown to have poor conversion to EPA (the end product of all omega-3's) in the body of those with traditional diets; however, in vegetarians the conversion seems to be higher (body's natural adaptation(?)).

Jan 10, 2014 6:36am | report
Mudvayne24

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Mudvayne24

Nero is correct, but the conversion is so bad that it's not even worth it. A strict vegan may have like 1-3% conversion if they're lucky. If you want all of the benefits I would do all of the above.

Jan 10, 2014 7:57am | report
mjdec

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mjdec

Thanks for the input guys

Jan 10, 2014 9:43am | report
Diamondmarked

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Diamondmarked

Glad I saw this article because I'm taking fish oil now in my diet!

Jan 9, 2014 8:59pm | report
towqeer

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towqeer

clamondmarke can i use for cooking or making fry egg fish oil

Feb 28, 2014 2:02pm | report
towqeer

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towqeer

clamondmarke can i use for cooking or making fry egg fish oil

Feb 28, 2014 2:02pm | report
masterofhorror

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masterofhorror

So if my fish oil says 1000mg and 300mg of EPA and DHA i should be taking 6 fish oils a day spread over the course of the day? Correct?

Jan 9, 2014 11:18pm | report
JABE00

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JABE00

That is a good question. What I do is when buying supps is, get a product that say 1000-1200 mg at least because whatever the amount of serving suggested, I always take 1-2 caps a day.

Jan 10, 2014 5:31am | report
NeroMaj

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NeroMaj

There is no absolute amount to take every day. As the article states, a ratio of 4:1 (omega-6 to omega-3) is generally believed to be an ideal ratio. Supplement your diet so as to get you closer to this ratio.

Jan 10, 2014 6:38am | report
Mudvayne24

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Mudvayne24

I take anywhere from 2-3 grams of actual DHA/EPA on average in addition to about 2 tablespoons of unfiltered flax oil for the ALA. The amount of actual fish oil in the capsule doesn't mean anything if there's no omega 3s contained inside of it. A 30% concentration is a typical strength capsule. I'd recommend looking for a double strength 50-60% concentration if you don't want to swallow a handful of pills a day (or a liquid and just down a teaspoon or 2).

People who typically stand by a Mediterranean type diet end up closer to the 1:1 ratio that Dr. Stoppani had mentioned above. This ratio lowers many diseases by a ridiculous amount.

Jan 10, 2014 8:10am | report
DropkickDiva

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DropkickDiva

I have never had this explained to me so well before! *lightbulb* It all makes sense now.

Jan 10, 2014 12:47am | report
alphafox85

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alphafox85

I take an omega 3 supplement called OmegaXL. By far the best I have come across, and what I love the most is that it isn't derived from fish, so you don't get that fishy burp. It's actually from a green lipped muscle found off the coast of New Zealand. Look it up on YouTube. You won't regret it.

Jan 10, 2014 3:17am | report
JABE00

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JABE00

Hey Jim love the articles you write.
A question I have, is it really necessary to take the recommended servings wether it is fish oil, multivitamins ect...

Jan 10, 2014 5:35am | report
NeroMaj

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NeroMaj

Fish oil should be used to help you diet be closer to the recommended ratio of 4:1. You should take whatever dosage helps you get there while making sure to adhere to any daily maximums suggested.

For multivitamins, a one-a-day tablet is usually all that is necessary since it is supplementing your diet and not making up the bulk of your nutrient sources. That being said, that one tablet may work better by taking half in the morning with food and half in the evening to increase the overall absorption.

Jan 10, 2014 6:41am | report
itsJustAROD

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itsJustAROD

This man knows everything. really an inspiration to me because I am majoring in exercise physiology. I want to learn everything. Love your articles man!

Jan 10, 2014 7:31am | report
krelubot

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krelubot

My physician told me to keep taking the fish oil as it has really lowered my triglycerides. Many benefits. Thank you for breaking down all these other oils a bit.

Jan 10, 2014 10:40am | report
ggdavid

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ggdavid

Dr. Stoppani, what do you recommend for those that are allergic to seafood?

Jan 10, 2014 1:19pm | report
240fly

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240fly

Excellent article Mr. Stoppani. I feel we also would benefit from an article with your breakdown about daily vitamins with the backlash recently from the media and some doctors

Jan 10, 2014 2:58pm | report
JimStoppani

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JimStoppani

Already covered that here on the site.

Jan 11, 2014 5:09pm | report
240fly

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BBcomENTHUSIAST

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BBcomENTHUSIAST

What about CLA ? That�s a omega 6 molecularly modified. Does it count in the 4:1 ratio ?
I think in Jym�s Shortcut to Shred it is prescribed to have both fish oil and CLA in large amounts...

Jan 10, 2014 3:13pm | report
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 13'4"
  • wt: 160.94 lbs
  • bf: 17.5%
Showing 1 - 25 of 44 Comments

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