To have a well-rounded fitness routine, it must align with your nutrition goals. This means consuming the right amount of calories, watching your macros (e.g. consuming enough protein), and using supplements to fill in nutritional gaps.
I include a number of supplements in my wellness regimen, including caffeine, vitamin D, magnesium, creatine, glucosamine, and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids offer a number of health benefits, helping to reduce inflammation and accelerate recovery post-workout.
Below, I dive into the three omega fatty acids: omega-3-6-9. I explain the value of each, how these fatty acids impact your fitness levels, and why you should incorporate supplements into your routine.
Please note: This post is meant for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Before taking supplements, please speak to your healthcare provider.
Yes, Your Body Needs Fat
In the fitness industry, there's been a long-standing fear of fat. Back in the '80s and '90s, people started blaming fat for a number of health ailments, including obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure. This started the low-fat craze of the early '90s, where people started replacing real, whole foods with low-fat, processed foods.
Then, a crazy thing happened: Obesity rates increased. Even though the vast majority of the population subscribed to a low-fat diet as the key to health, waistlines increased while consumption of fat decreased.
Fortunately, the low-fat fad finally — finally — seems to be on its way out. But before I dive into the value of omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids, I wanted to take this opportunity to explain that every human being needs fat in their diets. Fat helps protect your brain (your brain is made mostly of fats), keeps you warm, and helps you absorb a number of beneficial vitamins.
Here's another thing you should know: Every macronutrient can be converted and stored as body fat, including carbs and protein. Starving your body of all fat intake is not the best avenue for fat loss. Instead, I recommend a balanced diet with a regular fitness routine, encompassing HIIT and strength training workouts.
What Are Omega-3-6-9 Fatty Acids?
Now that you understand the value fat has in your diet, it's time to review omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids. While each of these fatty acids comes with a number of health benefits, an imbalance in your diet causes these otherwise healthy nutrients to work against you.
If you’ll allow me to get a little science-y on you for a second, here are the basics behind omega fats:
All fatty acids labeled as "omega" are unsaturated, meaning they contain one or more double bonds in the fatty acid chain. The number following the word omega refers to where the double bond falls within the chain. For example:
- Omega-3: Is an unsaturated (omega) fat with a double-bond three (3) carbon atoms into the fatty acid chain. Likewise…
- Omega-6: Is an unsaturated fat where the double bond falls six (6) carbon atoms into the chain. And finally…
- Omega-9: Is an unsaturated fat where the double-bond falls nine (9) carbon atoms into the chain.
Unsaturated fats, like omega-3-6-9, can be either polyunsaturated (PUFAs) or monounsaturated (MUFAs). Omega-3 and omega-6 are polyunsaturated because they have more than one double bond, while omega-9 is monounsaturated because it contains just one double bond.
Lastly, omega-3 and omega-6s are essential fatty acids, meaning your body can't produce them on its own. Omega-9 fatty acids are not essential because your body can produce them.
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Why Do You Need Them?
As you just learned, omega-3s are a polyunsaturated fatty acid that your body can't produce on its own. Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with decreased inflammation, reduced risk of heart disease, and normal brain function.
There are different types of omega-3 fatty acids available, but science focuses on three:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): Contains 18 carbon atoms, and acts as an antioxidant in the human body, helping to detoxify the body of free radicals, prevent cancer, and offer anti-aging benefits.
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): Contains 20 carbon atoms and acts as an anti-inflammatory, helping to reduce high cholesterol and high blood pressure in the body.
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): Contains 22 carbon atoms and is essential to cognitive function, helping to protect your brain and prevent Alzheimer's disease.
Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to the health of your brain, cells, and immune system. Here are just a few ways omega-3s could help your body and your workout routine:
- Cardiovascular benefits: EPA and DHA help lower your triglycerides, which can keep your heart healthy. Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is also associated with a decreased risk in heart attack and stroke.
- Cancer-fighting benefits: Some studies show that consuming omega-3s can help reduce your risk of developing colorectal, breast, or prostate cancer.
- Eye support: Research shows that consuming omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent macular degeneration and dry eye disease.
- Cognitive function support: Omega-3s are essential to brain health. Research shows that consuming omega-3s may decrease risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and other degenerative diseases.
- Recovery time benefits: Omega-3s can help improve muscle protein synthesis, which helps repair micro-lesions caused during exercise. It can also reduce inflammation, which can decrease delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Foods That Contain Omega-3 Fatty Acids
You can get omega-3s through supplements or through the foods you eat. Some foods that contain omega-3s include:
- Seafood: Salmon, mackerel, tuna, oysters, herring, anchovies, trout, halibut, sardines, fish oil, and other types of oily fish
- Nuts and seeds: Flaxseed, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts
- Vegetables: Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower
- Fortified foods: Some brands of eggs, yogurt, and milk
If you can't get enough omega-3s from your diet, you should take a supplement. I recommend taking two of these capsule shells per day for 1500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
What Are Omega-6 Fatty Acids and Are They Good for You?
Like omega-3s, omega-6s are a polyunsaturated fatty acid. There are four different types of omega-6s, including:
- Linoleic acid (LA): LA can benefit your heart, helping to reduce cholesterol levels and improve blood pressure levels.
- Gamma linolenic acid (GLA): GLA is found in a number of plant-based oils and can actually help reduce inflammation in the body.
- Arachidonic acid (ARA): ARA is essential to your cells, helping improve the health of your nervous system, skeletal muscle, and immune system.
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA): CLA is found in meat (particularly grass-fed meat) and dairy products. CLA has been shown to help reduce the risk of obesity, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Are Omega-6 Fatty Acids Good or Bad?
In recent years, omega-6 fatty acids have gotten a bad rap — but they do hold a place in a healthy diet.
Here's what happened: Your body wants to consume equal amounts of omega-3s and omega-6s. At one point (when we were hunter-gatherers), human diets included a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately, due to increased consumption of processed foods (particularly hydrogenated vegetable oils), many modern-day diets include 20 times the amount of omega-6s compared to omega-3s.
Eating too much omega-6 fatty acids causes a host of health problems, including chronic inflammation in the body. High consumption of omega-6s can raise your blood pressure, lead to heart attack and stroke, and cause your body to retain water. Therefore, it's important to always consume equal amounts of omega-3s and omega-6s, allowing your body to stay in balance.
When eaten in moderation, omega-6 fatty acids can actually be good for your heart. Other beneficial effects of omega-6s include:
- Essential to cell function: If you don't get enough omega-6 fatty acids, your cells won't work properly.
- Help with blood clotting: Your body can convert linolenic acid (LA) into arachidonic acid, which acts as a building block for molecules and promotes blood clotting.
- Support your heart (in moderation): Omega-6 fatty acids, in small amounts, can decrease your risk of heart disease.
- May help with weight loss: Consumption of CLA, a type of omega-6 fatty acid, is connected to increased weight loss in humans. It can also improve body composition, helping to reduce fat while preserving lean muscle mass.
Foods That Contain Omega-6 Fatty Acids
You can find omega-6s in nuts, seeds, and plant-based oils. Some sources of omega-6s include:
- Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, pine nuts, and almonds
- Legumes: Soybean oil and tofu
- Seed and vegetable oils: Sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, vegetable shortening, canola oil, and grapeseed oil
- Meat and dairy: Particularly grass-fed meat and dairy products
Once again, most diets contain too much omega-6 fatty acids, so you should never consume omega-6s in supplement form. Instead, you should consume an omega-3 supplement to ensure you're getting omega-3s and omega-6s in a 4:1 ratio (in a perfect world, it would be 1:1, but this is nearly impossible in modern times).
What Are Omega-9 Fatty Acids and Why Do You Need Them?
Omega-9s are a type of monounsaturated fat often found in vegetable oils and animal fat. Unlike omega-3s and omega-6s, your body can produce omega-9 fatty acids on its own.
Some of the most well-known and beneficial omega-9 fatty acids include:
- Oleic acid: It's found in a number of oils and is often used to replace saturated fats in the diet. Research shows that oleic acid may improve cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation in the body.
- Erucic acid: It's best to avoid erucic acid. You'll find it in seed oils (like rapeseed oil and canola oil). While it's fine in small doses, it can cause a heart condition called myocardial lipidosis in large amounts.
- Nervonic acid: Nervonic acid is a fat that's essential for healthy brain function. You can find nervonic acid in salmon, nuts, and seeds.
Health Benefits of Omega-9 Fatty Acids
Omega-9s are associated with a number of health benefits, although they're not as profound as omega-3s. Omega-9s can help:
- Improve heart health: Research shows consumption of omega-9s can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Omega-9s can reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, and help remove plaque build-up in the arteries, which can lead to heart disease.
- Protect your brain: Studies show that oleic acid can help improve concentration, support your mood, and decrease feelings of anger. In addition, research shows that higher levels of omega-9 fatty acids is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer's disease.
- Protect against some cancers: Preliminary research shows that omega-9s may help prevent some types of cancer, such as breast cancer.
Foods That Contain Omega-9 Fatty Acids
Since your body produces omega-9 fatty acids on its own, you do not need to consume them through food. That being said, these foods do contain high amounts of omega-9s:
- Oils: Olive oil, macadamia nut oil, and rapeseed oil
- Seeds: Wallflower seeds and mustard seeds
Should You Take Omega-3-6-9 Supplements?
As you just learned, your body needs fat. Fat plays a critical role in any healthy lifestyle, which is why it should hold a place in your diet.
Still, when it comes to omega fatty acids, you should only supplement with one: omega-3s. Since most diets contain too much omega-6 fatty acid as it is, you should never seek a food supplement that gives you more omega-6s. In addition, since your body produces omega-9s on its own, there's no need to consume them in supplement form.
Omega-3 fatty acids have far more health benefits with far fewer risks than omega-9s and omega-6s. While omega-6s are inflammatory when consumed in high amounts, omega-3 fatty acids are associated with decreased inflammation, lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and a decreased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Try Go Primal Omega-3 Supplements
While omega 3-6-9 fatty acids play a role in a healthy diet, you should never supplement with omega-6s or omega-9s. Just try and get that from your standard healthy diet. Instead, supplement with omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation and strike a healthy balance between omega-3s and omega-6s.
I recommend consuming Go Primal Protection and Performance Omega-3 supplements. These omega-3 fish oil soft gels are responsibly and sustainably sourced from wild Alaskan pollock. With an 80% concentration of pure fish oil, they offer 2000 mg of fish oil and 15000 mg of omega-3s in every serving. Take two capsules with a protein-rich meal to reduce inflammation and speed up your recovery post-workout.
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