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For a long time the message has been clear that some are healthy and some are bad. While there’s a place for saturated fats in an athlete’s diet (they help produce crucial hormones such as testosterone), man-made fats such as trans fats or hydrogenated fats—different names for the same thing—are very damaging and should be avoided by all people at all times.
When it comes to healthy fats, though, you may not know that you’re likely getting too many of some and not enough of others. Such is the case with polyunsaturated fats, a category that includes omega-3 and omega-6 fats found in high concentrations in flaxseed and cold-water fish like salmon.
To improve athletic performance and body composition, emphasize getting more omega-3s through your diet and supplementation programs. Fish oil and krill oil are the best supplements to take when looking to accomplish this. Here are three key points you need to remember about omega-3s.
Nutritionists encourage people to consume more omega-3s for their ability to support heart health and fight cancer. While young athletes would want these longterm benefits, they can also benefit more immediately. Omega-3s support muscle building by improving muscle fiber integrity and increasing insulin sensitivity. The latter helps you recover more efficiently. In addition, omega-3s help reduce inflammation and support joint health, both critical for effective athletic performance.
Omega-3s can be found in significant quantities in only a handful of foods. Even oils that are known for having plenty of healthy fats are often relatively low in omega-3s. Shoot for one gram of omega-3 for every five grams of omega-6. Foods high in healthy fats but relatively low in omega-3s include soybeans, pumpkin seeds, and avocados. It helps to emphasize foods and oils that contain a better ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s. These foods include flaxseeds, chia seeds, and wild salmon and mackerel.
While all foods that have a good ratio of omega-3s are better than sources of fat that don’t, there’s another complicating factor. Many vegetarian sources of omega-3s contain alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), the omega-3 that must be converted to DHA or EPA to unlock its benefits. To get DHA and EPA directly, you should emphasize fish-based omega-3s from sources such as wild-caught salmon, sardines, and mackerel, either in food or supplement form.
GO FISH: In addition to their heart health benefits, omega- 3s also help fight joint inflammation from intense athletic activity.