Omega-3 Fat: The Research That Can Lead To A Longer Life.

Fats in general are an essential part of every diet, especially that of bodybuilders and athletes, but protein and carbohydrates always seem to garner the most attention... Learn more.

Article Summary:
  • Learn why Omega-3 fats are especially beneficial.
  • Learn the hazards of too much or too little fat in your diet.
  • Learn the proper range of fat in your diet you should aim for.

  • Omega-3 Fat:
    The Research That Can Lead To A Longer Life

    Newly-released research has concluded that fish oil (also known as omega-3) supplements are more effective than popular cholesterol-reducing drugs in dealing with chronic heart failure, a condition where an enlarged heart ineffectively circulates blood throughout the body.

    Specifically scientists found no difference in the effectiveness of cholesterol drugs and a placebo, while fish-oil supplementation proved to be statistically better at reducing chronic heart failure symptoms than the drugs or the placebo.

    While the details of why fish oil reduces the ill effects of chronic heart failure is unknown, experts hypothesize that these fatty acids increase "good" cholesterol levels and strengthen organ membranes, which themselves are composed partly of fatty acids.


    What Does This Have To Do With Me?

      So while these findings are interesting and informative, what do fish oil supplements and omega-3 fats have to do with you, since you are neither a chronic heart failure patient nor a scientist?

      Fats in general are an essential part of every diet, especially that of bodybuilders and athletes, but protein and carbohydrates always seem to garner the most attention in any discussion of nutrition.

    Author Anthony Lee, Knows That Fats Are An Essential Part Of Every Diet.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    Author Anthony Lee, Knows That Fats
    Are An Essential Part Of Every Diet.

      People just assume that the lower the fat content, the better. As a result, too many bodybuilders are consuming sub-optimal compositions and levels of fats, which can indirectly affect performance and gains, and more importantly, directly affect overall health in the long run.


    A Broad Look At Fat

      Before delving into the specifics, let's take a high-level, relevant look at fat. Composed of fatty acids attached to a central structure, fat can be divided into two categories: unsaturated fat and saturated fat.

      Unsaturated fats (not fully saturated with hydrogen atoms, double bonds present), known commonly as "good fats," can be found in foods such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.

      Saturated fats (fully saturated with hydrogen atoms, no double bonds), on the other hand, are known as "bad fats" and found in meat and dairy products. Studies have found that on average, diets high in saturated fat are also high in calories and cholesterol, and these attributes are correlated with myriad health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

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      In general, fat is essential to bodily function as certain vitamins can only be digested, absorbed, and employed in the presence of fat. Also, bodily structures such as cell membranes rely on fat to operate properly. This is not surprising, as our bodies are a highly interconnected series of structures and processes and fat, along with protein and carbohydrates, is a major macronutrient.


    Don't Give Up On Fat

      Therefore, if you are a bodybuilder who avoids fats at all costs, you are making a vital mistake for a variety of reasons. Firstly, low fat intake results in lower levels of fat metabolism and overall metabolism.

      Since fat is an essential part of any diet, the body will take necessary measures if consumption of this macronutrient is lacking. Essentially, the body will hold onto existing fat, making it very difficult to lose those last few pounds of adipose tissue and achieve a desired level of leanness.

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      Secondly, extremely low levels of fat intake will inhibit the body's ability to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. This translates into lower effectiveness of foods consumed and supplements used.

      Overall, fats play a large role in the body's complicated processes, so depriving the body of fat, especially "good fats" found in nuts and oils, can mean interrupting everything from metabolism to vitamin uptake.


    Don't Go Overboard On Fat

      With that said, by no means should an individual, bodybuilder or not, consume fat freely. As was stated earlier, diets high in fat (especially the saturated kind) lead to obesity, heart disease, and a host of other complications.

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      From a pure bodybuilding standpoint, consuming too much fat will result in excess adipose tissue that hides muscle definition and striation, characteristics that separate a disciplined bodybuilder from an amateur who occasional throws around the iron. Therefore, the solution is to stay fully informed and to consume the most advantageous level and mix of fat to meet certain goals.

    What Is Adipose Tissue?
    Adipose tissue, or fat, is loose connective tissue composed of adipocytes(cells that compose adipose tissue). Its main role is to store energy in the form of fat, although it also cushions and insulates the body.


    How Much Fat Do We Need?

      What exactly is the optimal amount of fat? Any individual who has one magical number for the grams of fat to be consumed obviously knows nothing about nutrition. The right amount of fat depends on bodyweight, level of activity, bodybuilding goal, genetic predisposition, and a host of other factors.

      Only general guidelines and ranges can be given. For example, an active male weighing 175 lbs who trains four or five times a week and is looking to maintain his current physique should consume about 2600 to 2700 calories per day. About one-fourth of these calories (650 to 675) should come from fat. Since fat contains 9 calories per gram, this translates into approximately 72 to 75 grams of fat.

    CALORIES/FAT CALCULATOR
    Weight
    Results
    Calories
    Fat

      Furthermore, saturated fat should be less than 10 percent of this mix, and the remaining 90 plus percent should be "good fats" such as omega-3s and omega-6s from sources such as fish, nuts, and oils. This will ensure that the body has what it needs to function properly and smoothly. Only when these basic conditions are met can one concentrate on objectives such as muscle building or proper fat loss.


    Omega-3 Fatty Acids

      Omega-3 fatty acids, the focus of the fish oil supplement study, are a class of unsaturated fats and considered the healthiest, most beneficial kind. However, the "Western Diet," focused on carbohydrates and red meat instead of oils and fish, lacks this type of fat. But if fish such as salmon or cod and seeds such as flax cannot be consumed on a regular basis, supplements are the next best alternative.

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      Flax seed supplements, in liquid or capsule form, are approximately six times richer in omega-3 fats than fish oil supplements, without some of the associated risks. Specifically since cod liver oil supplements are made from the livers of cod, these supplements are rich in vitamin A, which when combined with a multi-vitamin and complete diet, may result in vitamin A overdose. Also, while some fish oil supplements have tested for trace amounts of mercury, flax seeds do not present this problem.


    Conclusion

    The results of the study testing the effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acid supplements on chronic heart failure patients may not shed light on specific bodybuilding topics, but they do shed light on overall health, which obviously affects the ability to add and maintain muscle or shed unwanted fat.

    Fish oil or flax seed oil supplements promote efficiency and regularity in the body's many processes, affecting everything from nutrient absorption to coronary wellness. Therefore, individuals whose diets lack omega-3 fats due to focused dieting, poor eating patterns, or simple oversight should seriously consider an omega-3 supplementation regimen to ensure that the body's "good fat" needs are being met.