There’s been plenty of hoopla around Omega – 3 fish oil for weight loss and it’s myriad health benefits for more than a decade and on many accounts, the attention is well deserved.
Tons of research has been conducted on the effectiveness and safety of Omega – 3 fatty acids for a wide variety of uses and a substantial amount of scientific evidence backs up their efficacy.
What are Omega – 3’s fatty acids?
Omega – 3’s are an essential nutrient that have been shown to have a positive impact on almost everything in the body. They’ve been shown to have a positive impact on everything from bone health to brain function, mood improvement, healthy joints, and great skin, hair and nails.
Even more impressive, Omega – 3’s play a role in lowering blood pressure, pain and inflammation and in battling diabetes, heart disease and certain forms of cancer.
The topic of Omega – 3’s could take thousands of pages so for this article I’m going to whittle it down to their role in fat loss.
So how do Omega – 3 fatty acids help weight loss?
Several research studies have shown that people who supplement with Omega – 3’s combined with a proper nutrition and exercise program lose more weight than those that don’t take the Omega – 3’s.
There are several possible mechanisms thought to assist in the the extra weight lost. One is that Omega – 3’s tend to lower your insulin levels which as you know will tend to help manage your appetite, leading to less calories consumed overall. It’s also been shown that when insulin is lower throughout the day, more body fat is used as fuel. (We wrote a protocol about exactly how to do this, which you can get for free here).
Other studies have shown a propensity of Omega – 3’s to increase fat oxidation within the cell (increased rate of fat loss) and decreased fat storage (less fat actually accumulating in the cell means less you’ll need to lose later on).
Another theory is that increased levels of Omega – 3’s assist blood flow to muscles during exercise, again leading to increased burning of fat for fuel. (We’re a big fan of the bodyweight workout to optimize fat burning.)
Can I get my Omega – 3’s by eating regular food?
Omega – 3 fatty acids are one of the rare nutrients that are difficult to get enough of without using a supplement. You can get Omega – 3’s from eating fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, albacore tuna, and sardines several times a week, but there’s always a risk of toxicity from mercury.
Rather than eating fish daily, adding a fish oil supplement may be a safer way to increase Omega – 3’s because the companies now use molecular filtration to get the toxic stuff out.
There’s really no way to know exactly how much fish is too much (toxicity wise) because levels of mercury are variable, but a good rule of thumb is having fatty fish once or twice a week, and just supplement the rest of the time.
How much do I need?
Much of the current research shows 1.5 grams on the low end to 3 grams at the high end. Fish oil is usually sold as liquid or in capsules. EPA/ DHA are how Omega – 3’s are commonly referred to on the label.
Many fish oil capsules on the market provide 120 mg of EPA and 180 mg of DHA for a total of 300 mg’s of Omega’s. In this case you’d take 6- 10 capsules daily with meals.
I know some people who take the whole amount in one shot, but most of my clients who take the capsules prefer to space them out over 3 meals- 3 with a power breakfast, 3 with lunch and 3 with dinner.
With that said, I’m a big proponent of the liquid form made by Carlsons. You can get it in lemon or orange flavor and you don’t really taste fish at all (they deodorize the oil). Capsules tend to give you a fishy after taste and some people get indigestion.
Is fish oil the only way to get Omega – 3’s fatty acids?
Actually no, Fish oil is the most common source of Omega – 3 fatty acids, but Krill is also a potent source. There’s a lot of debate as to whether Krill is better than fish oil, but there’s no definitive answer as of yet.
Krill touts lots of bells and whistles but not sure if worth the price to use exclusively. I suggest rotating your sources and see what works for you.
Flax seeds also contain Omega – 3’s but it’s not all bioavailable. They need to be converted in your body, but the process is highly inefficient. Again, flax has other benefits such as soluble and insoluble fiber so it’s a nice addition to the diet, I just wouldn’t rely on flax as the basis for your Omega – 3’s.
A couple of notes on Omega – 3’s
Some “guru’s” promote mega dosing fish oil for supposed benefits that simply don’t exist. More is not better- excessive doses can lead to increase bleeding (thinning of the blood), decreased immunity (easier to catch a cold) and fish oil burps. Keep your dosage in the sweet spot and speak with your doctor if you take any medications.
Omega – 3 fatty acids are just one of many of our nutritional secrets that make weight loss easier.