As bodybuilders we receive all kinds of dietary advice from others, some good and some not so good. One of the most common suggestions is to keep all fats to a minimum to avoid consuming too many calories. From a basic perspective this ideology makes sense since each gram of fat packs 9 calories, whereas one gram of protein or carbohydrates only has 4 calories. However, this thinking assumes that all fats are created equal and have no clear benefit beyond significantly boosting calories---this is not the case. In fact, essential fats are one of the most underestimated and overlooked macronutrients/supplements in bodybuilding and research has clearly shown that they are fundamentally important for bodybuilders and strength athletes.

There are four main types of fats: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, and trans fat; the former 2 promote healthy events in the body and the last two are considered unhealthy even when consumed in low amounts. Of the healthy ones, polyunsaturated fats have received an abundance of research support for their health and performance benefits. Polyunsaturated fats can be subcategorized into the essential fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) and linoleic acid (omega-6), which are not manufactured in the body and thus must be consumed in the diet. Our North American diet is heavy in omega-6 fatty acids, as they are prevalent in many food sources like poultry, eggs, nuts, and whole grain breads. As well, omega-6 fatty acids are abundant in canola oil, safflower oil, and corn oil. In contrast, our diet is relatively lacking in omega-3 fatty acids which are contained in high concentration in fatty fish (like salmon, mackerel, halibut, swordfish, etc), grass fed beef, flax fed poultry, flax seeds, and walnuts. As a result, the average North American diet contains anywhere from 10 to 25 times more omega-6 than omega-3 fats, which is not ideal or healthy. In fact, research suggests that we should be getting nearly equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in our daily diet. This is easily achieved by moderating the amount of omega-6 fatty acids taken in the diet, while bolstering the amount of omega-3's through supplementation. The best supplements for this are fish oil or flax based.

Scientific research has shown that maintaining an adequate balance of polyunsaturated fatty acids through diet and supplementation can improve health and provide an internal environment for fat loss, recovery, greater muscular growth and increased strength. Below we give you a brief overview of the research-backed benefits of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for bodybuilders.

Supporting fat loss and improved body composition
Many studies have shown that fish oil (omega-3 fatty acid) supplements increase fat loss and decrease overall fat accumulation (especially in the abdominal region) by significantly increasing lipolytic (fat burning) enzymes and decreasing lipogenic (fat accumulating) enzymes. As well, a recent study has shown that 6 weeks of fish oil supplementation can increase lean mass and decrease fat mass in healthy adults. In the same study, researchers illustrated that those who took fish oil had decreased cortisol (catabolic hormone) levels, which likely led to their observed increases in lean mass. Overall, the well-established impact of omega-3 fatty acids on decreased fat mass, increased lean mass, and decreased catabolic cortisol levels clearly demonstrate the importance of omega-3 supplements in bodybuilding.

Enhancing insulin sensitivity
It has been shown in numerous studies that omega-3 fatty acid supplements increase insulin sensitivity and can even reverse insulin resistance. The majority of studies show that this occurs mainly in skeletal muscle. This is of great benefit to bodybuilders, after all, because insulin drives sugars into muscle (as glycogen) and is also one of the most anabolic hormones. This effect of omega-3's on insulin sensitivity not only ensures adequate glycogen storage and anabolism, but also decreases the chance that sugars will be converted and stored as fat.

Increasing muscle blood flow
It has been shown in animals and humans that omega-3 supplements increase blood flow responses to exercise, an effect that occurs due to increased vasodilation. In a recent study, after only 6 weeks of fish oil supplementation, researchers observed a 34% increase in forearm vasodilation during rhythmic handgrip exercise compared to those who were given a placebo. Increased blood flow to working muscles ensures adequate nutrient delivery and metabolite clearance, which has been associated with decreased recovery time and increased strength/muscular gains.
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Reducing inflammation and pain

Several lines of evidence have shown that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and pain associated with heavy training. In fact, studies have shown that omega-3's significantly reduce inflammatory cytokine production, resulting in anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) effects comparable to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. For bodybuilders, this equates to tougher workouts with shorter recovery times--- leading to greater muscular gains in the long run.

In addition to the above benefits, omega-3 supplements have also been unequivocally shown to protect and repair the cardiovascular system, maintain/correct blood cholesterol and healthy blood lipids. Thus, if you aren't already incorporating these healthy fats into your regimen, there is no better time to start than now.

Elite-quality omega-3 formulations

As always, quality is paramount when supplementing with omega-3s or any essential bodybuilding nutrient. The R&D team at ProSource has recently released the best omega-3 formulations on the market: Omega 3 Fusion and Flax Fusion. As with all their products, they are of highest quality and have been optimized for taste and potency. Being forward thinking, they have combined their omega-3s with powerful antioxidants to prolong potency (something that is overlooked by most other formulas). This is imperative because omega-3 fatty acids are highly vulnerable to oxidation, which results in degradation and complete loss of effectiveness. Gain the many physique and performance benefits unique to omega-3 supplementation with premium-quality ProSource omega-3 products.

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Walser B, Giordano RM, Stebbins CL. Supplementation with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids augments brachial artery dilation and blood flow during forearm contraction. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2006 Jun;97(3):347-54. Epub 2006 Apr 25.