What is Flax Seed?
Flax seeds are a great source of fiber, lignans, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. We will examine each of these nutrients.
Flax seeds are an excellent source of fiber. They contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. They also contain a special fiber called mucilage. Mucilage helps stabilize blood sugar levels, protects against bowel cancer, and is a natural laxative.
Dietary fiber is important because it keeps the digestive system functioning properly. It enhances our body's ability to use other dietary nutrients. Fiber goes through our digestive tract almost completely undigested. Once it reaches the colon and/or the large intestine, fiber is then broken down.
- Dieting lacking sufficient fiber can lead to:
- Chronic Constipation (That can't be fun)
- Weight Control problems
- Heart Disease
Lignans are natural plant chemicals. They are molecules with anti-cancer, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties. Flax seeds are the richest source of lignans. Diets high in lignans can lead to a lower chance of getting colon, prostate, and breast cancer.
These plant hormones are also believed to block the formation of hormone based tumors. Lignans also boost the productions of a substance attached to estrogen and carries it out of the body.
Researchers also believe lignans to have antioxidant properties. Flax seed has 75 to 800 percent more lignans than other vegetables and grains! Making flax seed worth the investment.
Vitamins and Minerals
The vitamins and minerals found in flax seeds are zinc, iron, vitamin E, carotene, B-group vitamins, magnesium, calcium, sulfur, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, silicon, copper, nickel, molybdenum, chromium, and cobalt.
For every 100 grams of flax seeds, you get about 25-30 grams of protein, which is great considering the other nutrients you get along with this.
Flax seed is one of the best sources for the essential fatty acid alpha linolenic acid. Alpha linolenic acid is so important for bodybuilders because it "enhances insulin sensitivity within muscle cells." (1) This omega-3 fatty acid also has many other beneficial effects:
"Stimulating steroid production Systemization of hormones Mediating immune response Directing endocrine hormones to target cells Regulating smooth muscle and autonomic reflexes Construction of healthy cell walls Transportation of oxygen to body cells Keeping saturated fats mobile in the blood stream Regulation of nerve transmission Serving as the primary energy source for the heart muscle" (2)
They also have beneficial effects towards:
Those are just some of the beneficial effect of Omega-3. Omega-3's are sometimes defined as "anti-fats". This is due to their ability to speed up the metabolic process and aid in fat loss.
- Heart Attacks
- High Cholesterol
- Heart pain
- Multiple sclerosis
So What Does All of This Mean For Bodybuilders?
Seed vs. Oil
- Reduced Body fat
- Enhanced Performance
- Shortened recovery time
- Good source of energy
- Reduced muscle soreness
- Increased utilization of oxygen
- Increased utilization of other nutrients
- Overall better health
- And what do all of those lead to? MORE MUSCLE!
Most of the nutrients are contains in the flax seed. So from a nutritional standpoint, flax seeds are the way to go. BUT, the flax seed oil gives you a concentrated source of the "good" fats we are looking for. Which would give the oil an edge.
The solution... Use them BOTH! By using both the seeds and oil, you get all the nutrients, fiber, lignans, protein, and fat.
How to Use Flax Seed
If using the seeds, make sure the seeds are milled, ground up. Otherwise, you won't be able to absorb them. You can add the ground up seeds to cereal, salads, protein shakes, rice, or just eat them plain. You can add the oil to other liquid drinks, or just drink it straight. A good plan is using 1-2 TBSP of the ground flax seed and 1/2 TBSP Oil in the morning and before bed. Also use 1 TBSP of oil with 1 other meal during the day. You want to get 1-3 TBSPs a day.
So what are you waiting for? Starting flaxing!
Written by Bodybuilding.com writer, Derek Charlebois.