Every New Year, we make plans to get our health back on track, be it by losing weight, sleeping more, giving up fries, or starting yoga. But making permanent change isn’t easy. After a few weeks of sticking to the straight and narrow, it’s hard to resist falling back into comfortable old habits.
Knowing resolutions are easier made than kept, some tricks can assist us in reaching our goals. You could try writing out your resolutions or breaking your goal into manageable chunks. But I am talking about a slightly unconventional resolution aid – namely, fresh omega-3 fish oil.
So how can fresh fish oil help you with your New Year’s resolutions? Let’s look at how omega-3 makes a difference for three of the most commonly made promises: exercise more, lose weight and reduce stress.
Most of us need to exercise more and we know it. We spend too much time in front of the computer or television at home, and too much time sitting at the office. Come the New Year and a new gym membership, we want to make sure we stick with our new routine. And that’s exactly where fish oil helps.
There are several reasons omega-3 fish oil makes exercising easier. Taking fresh, full-spectrum omega-3 fish oil every day can provide pain relief equivalent to the effect achieved with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Naproxen or Ibuprofen. As Australian rheumatologists discussed in their article, “Fish oil: What Prescribers Need to Know,” most physicians and patients are unaware that taking one or two capsules of omega-3 fish oil does not provide enough EPA/DHA to make a difference. Readers should note that the body needs 2700 mg of EPA/DHA every day to achieve pain relief. On the plus side, fish oil does not produce any of the serious side effects seen with the long term use of NSAIDs (1). You can enjoy reduced muscle aches and improved recovery time after exercise, without worrying about the rest of your health being compromised.
Besides delivering a natural pain relieving effect, omega-3 fish oil also impacts how muscle cells function. When researchers put omega-3 to the test in a training context, they find taking fish oil in conjunction with exercise seems to strengthen the muscles more than exercise alone (2).
There are several studies exploring this phenomenon. To mention just one, a 2012 study from Brazil looked at how postmenopausal women responded to omega-3 in conjunction with their exercise regimen. Researchers found that the women who took omega-3 and exercised experienced increased muscle strength compared to women who exercised without added fish oil supplementation (3).
This news should hopefully make all of us stay wedded to our exercise plans. What better way to feel motivated than to see the results of one’s hard work?
One of the most common and challenging New Year’s resolutions is the desire to lose weight. Amongst the plethora of diets, most people are unaware that adding two essential ingredients to meals – namely fish oil and steel cut oats – significantly improves weight management.
At first, it might seem strange that fish oil, a pure fat, can function as part of an effective weight loss plan. But taking an adequate dose of fresh omega-3 fish oil makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight. The omega-3s in the fish oil act on the hunger hormones, helping signal the brain that the stomach is full. Furthermore, because fish oil also influences the stress hormones, it decreases the natural stress that comes with reducing daily calorie consumption (4).
Oat fiber also makes an enormous difference when it comes to weight loss. The longer food stays in the stomach before passing to the intestines, the less hungry we feel. Fortunately, soluble oat fiber has staying power. It binds with the liquids in the stomach to create a thick gel that slows stomach muscle contractions – therefore making it an ideal weight management tool (5).
In addition, oat fiber also plays a probiotic role in the large intestine. The gut flora, which seem to influence a person’s appetite and metabolism, changes depending on the food we consume. Diets high in processed carbohydrates and sugar promote unhealthy gut flora, while the good gut flora flourishes on oat fiber (6). Healthy gut flora in turn helps promote healthy weight control.
For the New Year, many of us wish we could feel less stressed on a day to day basis – maybe have time to stop and smell the roses and feel grateful for the little things. Fish oil doesn’t make day-to-day problems go away. However, many studies indicate that full-spectrum omega-3 helps reduce stress and provides therapeutic benefits for people suffering from mood disorders.
One theory behind the positive power of omega-3 fish oil is that it influences neurotransmitters, like serotonin, or the “happiness hormone” (7). In addition, people with depressive and anxiety disorders commonly have low levels of omega-3 in their blood (8). That deficiency might explain why people with depression experience mood-lifting benefits when they restore the proper balance of fatty acids in their body.
All of these benefits, of course, come with one caveat: To be effective, omega-3 fish oil needs to be fresh (non-rancid), consumed daily and taken in an adequate dose. That means one or two capsules here or there won’t cut it. You would need to consume nine or more regular fish oil capsules to match the same dose used in the studies showing that omega-3 has a pain relieving effect.
Still, taking fish oil daily does not need to be painful. You can enjoy an effective dosage of omega-3 as a breakfast cookie or as taste-free oil added to juices, smoothies and yogurts. So say cheers to a fresh New Year and best of luck with your resolutions!
1. Cleland et al. “Fish Oil: What the Prescriber Needs to Know.” Arthritis Research & Therapy, 8 (2006) : 202.
2. Martinsen, Bo and Chalmers, Anne-Marie. “Improve Your Workout with Omega-3 Fish Oil.” Omega3 Innovations. February 25, 2012.
3. Rodacki et al. “Fish-oil Supplementation Enhances the Effects of Strength Training in Elderly Women.” PubMed, January 4, 2012.
4. Parra et al. “A Diet Rich in Long Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids Modulates Satiety in Overweight and Obese Volunteers During Weight Loss.” PubMed, June 14, 2008.
5. Hall, McKenzie. “Fiber Facts About Cereal.” Today’s Dietitian, 14, 12 : 30.
6. Khoury et al. “Beta Glucan: Health Benefits in Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome.” Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, (2012).
7. Hamazaki et al. “Fish Oils and Aggression or Hostility.” PubMed, March 4, 2008.
8. Parker et al. “Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Mood Disorders.” The American Journal of Psychiatry, 10 (2006) : 163.