You hear people telling you that omega-3s are needed for heart health, but insufficient levels could even be hampering your training and athletic performance. 

What are Omega-3s?

When it comes to fat, there are two types of polyunsaturated fatty acids the body needs to function optimally, omega-3 and omega-6. The typical standard American diet contains much more omega-6s than omega-3s, which leads to an imbalance that can cause some adverse symptoms and side effects. Omega-3s, on the other hand, are critical to support functions like regulating of inflammation, eye health, brain health, bone and joint health, sleep, and of course heart health. 

 Omega-3 fatty acids are divided into three main categories:

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPH) — Found primarily in cold-water fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and swordfish.
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — Found primarily in cold-water fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and swordfish.
  • Alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) — ALA is the most common omega-3 in the typical Western diet and is found in vegetable oils, some nuts, flax seeds and flaxseed oil, leafy vegetables, and some animal fat (mainly grass-fed).

It’s important to remember that omega-3 fatty acids cannot be produced by humans, therefore they must be obtained through diet. ALA can be converted into EPA and then DHA, but conversion is very limited and occurs primarily in the liver at a rate of less than 15%; most ALA is used in beta-oxidation and is unable to be converted to longer chain fatty acids like EPA and DHA.

EPA and DHA are converted into eiconsanoids and docosanoids in the body, which then form DGLA, arachidonic acid (AA), and EPA. DGLA and EPA give rise to anti-inflammatory compounds, whereas AA gives rise to pro-inflammatory compounds.

Ways Omega-3s Help Athletic Performance 

Improve inflammation response for better recovery. One of the most well-known properties of fatty acids are as powerful anti-inflammatories. When muscles are stressed, in the case of exercise, microscopic tears occur that heal and produce muscle growth and greater strength/power. EPA and DHA play a role in reducing inflammation through certain inflammatory mediators. Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to decrease the production of arachidonic acid (AA) pro-inflammatory substrates.

Increase protein synthesis. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids not only decreases the rate of muscle breakdown, but it actually helps to increase muscle synthesis. A 2011 study conducted on healthy individuals regarding the effect of fatty acid supplementation showed a considerable increase in the muscle building response to insulin and amino acids, as well as alleviating muscle protein building resistance that is associated with aging (1). Results showed increased muscle size as well as increased protein concentration.

Support hormone production. Fats are an essential part of hormone production. Testosterone, specifically, is a steroid hormone that contributes to growth and development, including the increase in muscle mass. Studies suggest that fish oil supplementation can up-regulate the production of testosterone, likely because of the involvement of EPA in its synthesis. A 2020 study published concluded fish oil supplementation was associated with increases in free testosterone (2).  

Improves body composition. Not only can fish oil supplementation help to improve your athletic performance, but it can also help to improve body composition. A 2010 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed that supplementing with a 2:1 ratio of EPA:DHA increased lean body mass in subjects while decreasing fat mass (3). These changes were positively associated with a decrease in salivary cortisol levels following fish oil consumption.

Keep joints strong. Joint pain is something many athletes experience and can cause severe limitations to performance. Joint pain is often caused by inflammatory cells infiltrating the area around the joints through secretion of pro-inflammatory compounds like cytokines that cause tissue damage, edema, and pain. Regular omega 3 supplementation  help reduce the secretion of pro-inflammatory compounds, thus reducing joint pain and discomfort.

Improve cognitive function. The brain is made up of over 60% fat, so it shouldn’t be surprising that supplementing with fatty acids can improve brain function. Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, and their metabolites influence several body functions including gene expression, oxidative stress, cerebral blood flow, neurotransmitter levels, and other brain-related processes such as neuron production. DHA is one of the main constituents of the brain and functions as an essential building block of brain cell membranes. Some studies show that higher blood levels of omega-3s are associated with improved cognitive and brain function (4).

Benefit the cardiovascular system for performance. Studies have shown that fats play a critical role in not only improving cardiovascular performance, but omega-3 supplementation, specifically, helps to enhance blood flow, improve blood pressure and heart rate during sub-maximal exercise. One study showed omega 3 supplementation lowered O2 consumption and peak heart rate during exercise (5).

Benefits of Taking OC3AN 

While hundred of supplements are available that help to improve athletic performance, incorporating fish oils into your supplemental protocol may be highly beneficial for you. In addition to 1800 mg of EPA and DHA, our product OC3AN includes CoQ10 and astaxanthin. 

Including CoQ10 can also be useful for improving energy levels and restoring energy for athletic performance. CoQ10 has higher absorbability when taken in conjunction with fats. And astaxanthin is what gives the red-pink pigment to seafoods, and has been to shown to provide the extra benefit of reducing markers of oxidative stress.

West DW, Burd NA, Coffey VG, Baker SK, Burke LM, Hawley JA, Moore DR, Stellingwerff T, Phillips SM. Rapid aminoacidemia enhances myofibrillar protein synthesis and anabolic intramuscular signaling responses after resistance exercise. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Sep;94(3):795-803. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.013722. Epub 2011 Jul 27. PMID: 21795443.
Jensen TK, Priskorn L, Holmboe SA, et al. Associations of Fish Oil Supplement Use With Testicular Function in Young Men. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(1):e1919462. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.19462
Noreen, E.E., Sass, M.J., Crowe, M.L. et al. Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 7, 31 (2010).
4 Dighriri IM, Alsubaie AM, Hakami FM, Hamithi DM, Alshekh MM, Khobrani FA, Dalak FE, Hakami AA, Alsueaadi EH, Alsaawi LS, Alshammari SF, Alqahtani AS, Alawi IA, Aljuaid AA, Tawhari MQ. Effects of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Brain Functions: A Systematic Review. Cureus. 2022 Oct 9;14(10):e30091. doi: 10.7759/cureus.30091. PMID: 36381743; PMCID: PMC9641984.
5 Peoples GE, McLennan PL, Howe PR, Groeller H. Fish oil reduces heart rate and oxygen consumption during exercise. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2008 Dec;52(6):540-7. doi: 10.1097/FJC.0b013e3181911913. PMID: 19034030.