Thursday, October 4, 2012

Chiseled Abs With a Side of Fishy Burps

Photo Credit: NOAA Magazine
Browsing any CrossFit blog or message board will return a ton of amateur feedback on the nutritional benefits of various supplements. Things ranging from supplementing with whey protein, avoiding soy protein, post-workout nutrition, pre-workout nutrition (covered here), and fish oil. Today let's talk about fish oil. Support for the overall heart health benefits of fish oil is not limited to the CrossFit world (although some CrossFitters may claim they invented the fish oil supplementation craze). Body builders, cardiologists,  pharmacists, nutrition specialists, registered dietitians, and primary care physicians all encourage regular consumption of fish oil. However, not all fish oil supplements are created equal. The two primary ingredients that provide the bulk of nutritional benefit in fish oil supplements are: EPA and DHA. Here's an easy to understand article discussing the benefit of fish oil: link
In the body, EPA and DHA can be stored in the phospholipid bilayer of cells for future use. If you consume enough EPA or DHA, you can significantly alter the composition of the fats that make up the bilayer of your cells. This can have a profound impact on processes that utilize those stored lipids (fats).
If you're looking for something supported by scientific evidence, then look no further than the National Library of Medicine's article: link. Here are some of the benefits:
  • High triglycerides: High triglycerides are associated with heart disease and untreated diabetes. To reduce the risk of heart disease, doctors believe it is important to keep triglycerides below a certain level. Doctors usually recommend increasing physical activity and restricting dietary fat to lower triglycerides. Sometimes they also prescribe drugs such as gemfibrozil (Lopid) for use in addition to these lifestyle changes. Now researchers believe that fish oil, though not as effective as gemfibrozil, can reduce triglyceride levels by 20% to 50%. One particular fish oil supplement called Lovaza has been approved by the FDA to lower triglycerides. Lovaza contains 465 milligrams of EP and 375 milligrams of DHA in 1-gram capsules.
  • Heart disease: Research suggests that consuming fish oil by eating fish can be effective for keeping people with healthy hearts free of heart disease. People who already have heart disease might also be able to lower their risk of dying from heart disease by eating fish or taking a fish oil supplement. However, for people who already take heart medications such as a “statin,” adding on fish oil might not offer any additional benefit.
  • High cholesterol: There is interest in using fish oil in combination with “statin” drugs for some people with high cholesterol. Doctors were worried at first that taking fish oil might interfere with statin treatment, but early studies show this is not a problem, at least with the statin called simvastatin. Scientists think fish oil may lower cholesterol by keeping it from being absorbed in the intestine. There is some evidence that using vitamin B12 along with fish oil might boost their ability to lower cholesterol.
  • Weight loss: Some evidence shows that eating fish improves weight loss and decreases blood sugar in overweight people and people with high blood pressure. Preliminary research also shows that taking a specific fish oil supplement 6 grams daily (Hi-DHA, NuMega), providing 260 mg DHA/gram and 60 mg EPA/gram, significantly decreases body fat when combined with exercise.
Looks like some pretty considerable cardiovascular benefits. Keep in mind, like with any supplement or medication, fish oil is not for everybody. People who are taking warfarin or any other "blood thinner" need to inform their physician and/or pharmacist prior to supplementation. Fish oil when taken at high doses increase your risk of bleeding. Granted these doses are substantially higher than what is recommended on the label. But, there are some people out there who foolishly follow the "more is better" mantra. Try to take anywhere from 2-4 grams of EPA/DHA combined per day. There is no additional benefit beyond this supplementation level.

Another side effect is gastrointestinal (aka stomach) discomfort. This can result in abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, gas, and fishy burps. If you want your spouse to kiss you, one trick you can try to decrease the incidence of the gastrointestinal side effects associated with fish oil supplementation is to freeze your capsules. Some website may suggest buying enteric coated products. You could fork over the money to buy the enteric coated version, as the coating will allow the fish oil to dissolve lower in your GI tract, reducing the risk of stomach discomfort, gas, and fishy burps. Or you can save money, freeze your fish oil capsules, and enjoy some of the same benefits as enteric coating (only effective for fish oil capsules not the liquid version...and please don't try this with other medications or supplements). Freezing helps the capsules dissolve lower in your GI tract, thus reducing your risk of burping fish breath and/or having fish smelling gas.

Yesterday's WOD:

50-40-30-20 and 10 rep rounds of:
Time: 14:42

I suck at sit-ups

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