by Josh Hodnik
Protein and amino acid supplements work in the spotlight and are the superstars when it comes to muscle growth, but there is a supplement that works great behind the scene to increase strength, protein synthesis, and fat loss.
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are a group called essential fatty acids (EFAS.) They are considered essential because they cannot be synthesized in the body and must be taken in through food or supplements. It is important to consume an ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. This ideal ratio is between 4:1 and 3:1. With the average Western diet, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 falls somewhere between 10:1 and 25:1. In a society where large amounts of beef is eaten and fish intake is low, many people are often deficient in omega-3s, which leaves them missing out on many of the benefits this essential fatty acid has to offer.
FISH OIL and STRENGTH:
The human brain is almost 60% fat. We have learned in recent years that fatty acids are among the most crucial molecules that determine the brain’s ability to perform. It is also known that an imbalance in dietary intake of fatty acids is related to impaired brain performance and diseases. Omega-3s, particularly from fish oil, are very important for brain development during the fetal and postnatal period. In the brain, neuronal membranes contain phospholipid pools that are reservoirs for synthesizing specific lipid messengers on neuronal stimulation. When these phospholipid pools are saturated with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from fish oil, there is an increase in overall brain and central nervous system health. This can increase intelligence, vision, and mood. The central nervous system (CNS) plays an important role in motor function in the human body. The CNS is a determining factor in muscular strength; whether it increases, decreases, or remains as is. When neuronal phospholipid membranes are saturated with EPA and DHA from fish oil, the CNS is able to perform at a higher level. This can allow for more strength, which allow for a progression in muscle stimulation, and an increase in muscular development.
FISH OIL and PROTEIN SYNTHESIS:
All cells in the body contain a plasma membrane, which surrounds the cell interior. As with neuronal membranes, the cell plasma membrane is enriched in fatty acids. Within all cells are membrane proteins. These proteins are responsible for moving nutrients or signals to the cell interior. The cell interior is where protein synthesis takes place based on messaging from membrane proteins. When certain levels of EPA and DHA are found in the plasma membrane, they can exert their effects by modulating signals between membrane proteins and the cell. Omega-3s from fish oil have a diverse effect on human physiology when it is incorporated into the plasma membrane of all cells.
A study was carried out to test whether or not fish oil supplementation could increase muscle protein synthesis. This study was conducted on subjects who were 65 and older. As people age, anabolic resistance can occur. With this condition, higher levels of amino acids need to be consumed to get the same response as younger people. The study showed that 8 weeks of fish oil supplementation lead to a significant increase in protein synthesis in response to amino acid/leucine administration.
A subsequent study tested whether or not fish oil supplementation could increase muscle protein synthesis in young healthy adults. Nine healthy individuals, with an average age of 39, were given 4g of fish oil supplementation daily, for 8 weeks, that contained 1.86g of EPA and 1.5g of DHA. The participants were asked not to change their usual diet and activity pattern for 8 weeks. All the participants were tested after 8 weeks of fish oil supplementation, They were all given 20g of amino acids over a 3 hour period on the day of the test, and blood samples were taken at regular intervals. After 8 weeks the EPA and DHA enrichment of the cell membranes had increased dramatically. That wasn’t the only thing that increased after 8 weeks. Muscle protein synthesis increased by 98% in response to the intake of amino acids. In contrast, there was a 68% increase in muscle protein synthesis with the amino acids alone and no fish oil supplementation. This shows a 50% greater muscle protein synthesis response to the amino acids when the cell plasma membranes were enriched with EPA and DHA from fish oil. It can be theorized that the saturation of EPA and DHA in the cell plasma membrane allows amino acids to be transported to the cell interior, where protein synthesis occurs much more efficiently.
FISH OIL and FAT LOSS:
A diet high in saturated fat causes insulin resistance. This creates an environment that promotes increased body fat deposition, Omega-3 fatty acids, in the form of fish oil, prevents insulin resistance, even when higher saturated fat is consumed. This results from the beneficial effect of fish oil on the plasma membrane, which allows for better transport to the cell interior. Fish oil has been shown to dramatically decrease insulin output, while increasing lipid oxidation (fat-burning.) High insulin levels cause fat to either be stored or to not be released as fuel. The fat-burning effects of fish oil are believed to be as a result of its ability to decrease insulin secretion.
Fish oil has been shown to have a positive impact on body composition by increasing protein synthesis, decreasing insulin output, and increasing strength through central nervous system health. It looks to benefit all cells throughout the body by enriching the plasma membrane. Anyone that has a desire to increase strength, muscle mass, and decrease body fat, should supplement with fish oil with a high EPA (2g) and DHA (1.5g) content daily.