The Single Best Supplement
Q: What's one supplement that every athlete, weekend warrior, and basically any active person should be taking daily?
A: Fish oil. I was first introduced to fish oil twelve years ago by my friend Mauro DiPasquale. I was over at his house and he had fish oil on the counter. I asked him what he used it for and he said, "Charles, this is the most important supplement ever."
He told me to go to Medline and punch in any disease known to man and the words "fish oil" beside it. He challenged me to find a study that didn't show how fish oil could benefit in the treatment of any disease. I gave up after 86 studies!
Why is it so beneficial? It's in our genes. Humans used to consume 300-400 grams of omega-3s per week. If we consume more than two grams a day now it's considered a lot.
There was a study published four years ago that showed that if the US government issued three grams of fish oil per day to American citizens, then the amount of cancer and heart disease would go down by 50% within one year. Most readers don't care about cancer and heart disease, but they may care about this: the biggest limiting factor in naturally training people to getting lean and adding muscle is the consumption (or lack thereof) of omega-3s.
Looking at the body structure of cavemen, they had a lot of muscle mass compared to modern man. They got their omega-3s through the meats they ate. Now, they often ate what the predators left. For example, a lion will eat an antelope from the gut on, so what's left is the skull and long bones. Primitive man would break the skull open and eat the brains. Brains are 60% fat, and 60% of that is DHA, the omega-3. What they've found is that the more brain-sucking was going in those populations, the faster the IQ went up.
"I've lost my appetite."
Primitive man would also break the bones of the prey and suck the marrow, also rich in omega-3, DHA particularly. DHA is the omega-3 most responsible for brain development while EPA is most associated with reducing inflammation.
My athletes would often recognize each other when sitting around a table because those I'd be training would break out the fish oil during the meal. That's how I got the nickname "the fish oil guy" among athletes. But that's also how I get people so lean so fast.
Anyone who wants to put on muscle and lose fat should be on 30-45 grams of fish oil per day. That's just three tablespoons of fish oil. It would be a pain in the ass with capsules though because that's around 45 capsules per day, but it's easy with a straight oil.
Flameout is also a great product. I like the addition of CLA to the EPA and DHA because most of the population is deficient in CLA. When I travel abroad I bring four or five bottles of Flameout instead of my liquid fish oil and take four or five capsules a day.
For those of us interested in positively and optimally altering body composition and maximizing our training efforts, fish oils offer thirteen possible advantages:
1. Cell membrane health: EPA and DHA insure that cell membranes remain healthy. This means that the membranes are flexible and contain larger numbers of insulin receptors that are more receptive and responsive to circulating insulin. This results in decreased fat storage in the adipocytes (fat cells).
2. Fish oils turn on the lipolytic genes (fat burning genes).
3. Fish oils turn off the lipogenic genes (fat storage genes).
4. Fish oils diminish C-reactive proteins, a newly identified risk factor associated with various inflammatory diseases, including atherosclerosis, angina, coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, and diabetes. The DHA fraction of the fish oil seems to be one most responsible for that protective effect. DHA also has the best ability to reduce blood pressure.
5. Increase utilization of fat stores from the adipocytes.
6. Preferential utilization for energy production once stored in the adipocytes.
7. Reduced inflammation from physical training.
8. Pain management from the reduced inflammation.
9. EPA regulates blood supply to the brain which is essential in maintaining focus in weight training sessions. DHA is important in brain membranes, memory, and cognitive function.
10. Fish oils increase serotonin levels (the happy neurotransmitter). Therefore, fish oils will decrease incidence of depression, anxiety, panic attack, and reduce carbohydrate cravings.
11. Fish oils will improve your cardiovascular risk profile by lowering VLDL, triglycerides, homocysteine, fibrinogen, and increasing HDL levels. Combining fish oils with plant sterols will improve lipid levels even more than either alone.
12. Fish oils can also decrease blood pressure by several mechanisms. These include increases in the vasodilatory compound, nitric oxide, reducing vascular inflammation, blocking the constrictive elements in the vascular wall such as the calcium channels reducing blood viscosity, and inhibiting a blood vessel constrictor (thromboxane). Lipoprotein (a) is another CVD predictor that can be lowered by fish oils (a 19% reduction was seen with natural, stable fish oils and just 4% with a highly purified fish oil).
13. Fish oils are a great stress fighter. Supplementation with n-3 fatty acids inhibits the adrenal activation of steroids, aldosterone, epinephrine, and norepinephrine (catecholamines) elicited by a mental stress, apparently through effects exerted at the level of the central nervous system. Therefore, for the same amount of stress, one will produce fewer stress hormones if consuming fish oils on a regular basis.
In short, fish oil is my number one supplement recommendation!