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Traver Boehm: Benefits of Fish Oil Supplements Catching On

But not all products are created equal, and quality does make a difference

“Of course I take fish oil. I get a big bottle of it every three months at Costco.”

Oh, boy. After last week’s juice talk, there were a lot of questions emailed in about supplements and their validity. Eric Malzone and I get asked on a daily basis about which supplements we are taking personally. The answer for most people, unfortunately, is rather disappointing — we take fish oil and vitamin C, and that’s it.

That’s it? But you guys work out six days a week? Yep, that’s all we take.

I spent a good portion of my 20s (and a good portion of my income in my 20s) running back and forth to GNC with a magazine in one hand and my hopes and dreams of gaining 50 pounds of muscle in the other. What did I walk away with usually? You know the old saying about doing something in one hand and wishing in the other? Yep, that pretty much sums it up. I usually bought a lot of expensive nonsense that didn’t add a pound of muscle anywhere on my body but did contribute significantly to the amount of time I spent in the bathroom.

Supplementing your diet with vitamins, minerals and even extra protein can be a good idea if you are deficient in those areas after eating a complete diet. Step one, however, is not all that popular. Step one should always be to get your daily intake of vitamins and minerals (not the recommended daily allowance set by your lovely government, by the way — that is the minimum amount necessary to keep you alive) through eating whole foods. Shocking, I know, but eating vegetables and lean meats will give you far more than supplements ever will.

That all being said, Eric and I do highly recommend fish oil supplementation and take fish oil on a daily basis ourselves. We do this simply because we have found, through our own self-experimentation as well as through monitoring the results of our athletes, that fish oil is the best natural anti-inflammatory agent that we know of. (Do a quick Google search on inflammation and the litany of ill health effects that scientists are discovering for which it’s at the root.)

There’s a catch, though. Fish oil is one of those products in which quality truly does make a difference. This is why we don’t want our athletes purchasing any supplement, or even food, for that matter, from major grocery chains or wholesalers.

What makes one fish oil better than another, you ask? Great question. What we’re looking for are two separate forms of Omega-3 fatty acid — docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). EPA is required for your body to produce prostoglandins, which are essential for healthy blood clotting and arterial health. DHA and EPA help with many processes, including brain development (60 percent of your brain is made up of fat, and most of that fat is made up of DHA, low levels of DHA have also been linked to depression) and functioning, cell-to-cell communication and most importantly to a serious athlete — regulating inflammation.

When choosing a fish oil, the keys to check are the amount of DHA and EPA present in the product as well as the ratio between the two. Most physicians will say that a healthy ration of EPA and DHA is 2:1 respectively. The amount of DHA and EPA in each capsule or teaspoon of fish oil will cue you in on its potency.

At Crossfit Pacific Coast, we sell and consume a fish oil product with 1,500 to 1,630 mgs or EPA per teaspoon and 1,025 to 1,075 mgs of DHA per teaspoon (compared with Costco’s Kirkland brand has a combined EPA/DHA of 300 mgs per capsule). This is obviously a very high concentration, without any fillers or artificial substances.

What positive results do we see from taking fish oil on a daily basis? I won’t speak for everyone, but I know that for Eric, myself and the rest of our coaching staff, when we are taking fish oil consistently our old injuries flare up far less often and we recover from workouts much faster. Less pain and faster recovery is exactly what we’re after.

If you’re not taking fish oil on a regular basis, I highly recommend doing so. If you have questions regarding a particular product, feel free to shoot us an email.

Have at it.

— Traver Boehm is co-owner and coach at Crossfit Pacific Coast, has a master’s degree in Chinese medicine, is a licensed acupuncturist at Alki Wellness, and a nutrition specialist. He can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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