Tag Archives: fats

Fish Oil for Muscle Growth

fish-oilby Monica Mollica

Most supplements are used for one specific outcome, for example fat loss, muscle growth or general health promotion. However, there are a few exceptions. Fish oil is one of them.

We all know about the cardiovascular health benefits of fish oil, and in a previous article I covered the fat loss effect of fish oil. Now let’s take a look at the potential application of fish oil for those of us who are interested in muscle growth…

Anti-catabolic effects of fish oil

Muscle protein undergoes a continuous process of synthesis (anabolism) and degradation (catabolism). In a healthy state, the anabolic and catabolic processes are balanced to maintain stability of or even increase muscle mass (as is observed with resistance training combined with proper nutrition).

Catabolism of muscle tissue is common in both clinical states (for example diabetes, renal failure, trauma and cancer) and during diet-induced weight loss and other stress conditions 1-6. During these catabolic states, muscle protein degradation exceeds muscle protein synthesis, which results in muscle loss and weakness.

Muscle protein catabolism is primarily caused by the ubiquitin-proteasome system 36-11. It is here fish oil enters the picture, since its fatty acid EPA significantly decreases the activity of the muscle protein catabolic (ubiquitin-proteasome) system 24512-16.

Another mechanism by which fish oil exerts its anti-catabolic effect is by reducing cortisol levels 1718. As we all know, cortisol breaks down muscle tissue 19 and has a host of other detrimental effects when present at chronically elevated levels (which is a topic in its own right), so this is a beneficial effect of fish oil beyond anti-catabolism.

Anabolic effects of fish oilfishoil5

What makes fish oil especially interesting is that it seems to promote muscle growth by not only inhibiting muscle catabolism, but also by stimulating muscle anabolism. Recent studies showed that supplementing for 8 weeks with 4 g per day of fish oil concentrate providing a daily dose of 1.86 g EPA and 1.5 g DHA, significantly increases the anabolic response of muscle protein synthesis to amino acids and insulin 20. The augmented anabolic response to amino acids and insulin was shown to be due to an increased activation of the mTOR/p70S6K signalling pathway, which is considered an integral control point for muscle protein anabolism 21 and muscle cell growth 22-25.

Other mechanisms probably contribute as well. The same study showed that the fish oil supplementation in  25-45 year old healthy subjects doubled the proportion of EPA, DPA (another less talked about omega-3 fatty acid) and DHA in muscle cell membranes, at the expense of omega-6 fatty acids and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, with no change in saturated fatty acid) concentrations 20. Thus, it is also possible that fish oil supplementation influences anabolic signalling cascades by affecting membrane lipid composition and/or fluidity 26-29.

Are you older than 45 yr? Don’t fret, you will still benefit from the muscle anabolic effects of fish oil. The same research team conducted another study, using an identical research protocol (1.86 g EPA and 1.5 g DHA for 8 weeks), in healthy elderly subjects over 65 years (mean age 71 years). The results were the same as in the younger subjects; the fish oil supplementation significantly increased the muscle protein synthetic response to amino acids and insulin 30. Thus, fish oil seems to attenuate the anabolic resistance associated with old age 31-33. The researchers were so impressed with the response that they concluded fish oil can be useful for both prevention and treatment of sarcopenia 30.

In both of these studies, muscle mass was not measured because the interventions only lasted for 8 weeks. However, taking into consideration that changes in muscle protein metabolism precede corresponding changes in muscle mass 34-36, these results are promising. It is going to be interesting to see longer term studies that measure actual fish oil induced gains in muscle mass, and also how the anabolic response to fish oil interacts with resistance training.

Wrap up

Whether you’re looking to build muscle or prevent loss of muscle during a diet, evidence supports the addition of fish oil to your supplement regimen. Fish oil, and especially EPA, not only counteracts the detrimental loss of muscle mass that we see in stressful and catabolic states, but also boosts the anabolic response to nutritional stimuli in healthy muscle from both young, middle-age and older adults. Thus, it beneficially affects both the catabolic and anabolic sides of the muscle protein balance equation.

The studies to date used a fish oil dose corresponding to 1.86 g EPA and 1.5 g DHA (which can be considered to be a medium high dose). We don’t know yet if a higher or lower dose would have a greater/smaller effect, but this dose is a good guideline to start with.


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About the Author

Monica Mollica

Health Journalist, Nutrition / Diet Consultant & Personal Trainer

BSc and MSc in Nutrition from the University of Stockholm

ISSA Certified Personal Trainer

Website:   www.trainergize.com

Email:   monica@trainergize.com



The Fab Five Fats for Getting Lean

by Melody Garza MS RD CISSN

Yup you heard right, the best fats for getting lean. You might think that to lose weight, you need to cut the fat out of your meals. After all, fat is higher in calories than protein and carbs, and low-fat diets have been popular since the Senate Nutrition Committee first recommended them in the late 1970s. But research shows that a moderate-fat diet (with about 35 percent of calories consumed coming from fat) will help you drop pounds permanently, feel full longer, and avoid bingeing. The trick is to eat the right kind of fat to increase satisfaction and boost weight loss. Here’s why it’s important to eat fat and the five of the best fat sources to add to your diet.

How eating fat will help you lose fat.healthy-fats-factor-75

In 2008, researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel found that people who followed low-fat diets lost less weight than people who followed low-carb or moderate-fat diets. The low-fat group lost an average of 6.5 pounds over 2 years, but the low-carb and moderate-fat groups lost about 10 pounds. Women did especially well on the moderate-fat diet, losing an average of 13 pounds during the study.

Fat is an important element in weight loss for several reasons:

  • Fat helps your body control blood sugar and insulin spikes after eating carbohydrates. Better sugar metabolism means less fat storage.
  • Fat slows down digestion and aids nutrient absorption. You’ll stay fuller longer and get more health benefits from the food you eat.
  • Essential fatty acids (like omega-3s) may boost your metabolic rate and increase fat burning.
  • Fat tastes good. It also provides a “mouthfeel” that is satisfying, which can help you be happy with less food.

Eating more fat may also help you stick to your diet longer. In a study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, participants got either 20 percent of their calories from fat or 35 percent of their calories from fat. After 6 months, both groups had lost weight. But after 18 months, only 20 percent of the people in the low-fat group were still following the diet, compared with 54 percent of the people in the moderate-fat group. Likewise, the subjects in the moderate-fat group had maintained their weight loss, while the low-fat group participants had gained most of the weight back.

If you reach for a box of low-fat or fat-free crackers or cookies because you want to lose weight, you may actually be sabotaging your diet. Manufacturers frequently replace fat with sugar in packaged food items to make them taste better. You think you’re making a good decision by eating fat-free products, but the excess sugar and refined flour can lead to fatigue, cravings, mood swings, and weight gain caused by the overproduction of insulin—the fat-storage hormone. As a snack, a sliced apple with some peanut butter or a salad with oil and vinegar dressing would be a better weight loss choice. The complex carbs and healthy fats will maintain your blood sugar levels, boost your energy, and keep you satisfied longer.

What kind of fat should you eat?

 To get lean, you need to eat the right kind of fat. Avoid saturated and trans fats (which are found in red meat, full-fat dairy products, and many packaged foods), and instead choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Here are some of the best sources of fat to help you reach your weight goal.

Fish – Fish like salmon, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, and sardines contains beneficial amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Most experts agree that eating two servings of fatty fish per week is safe for people who are worried about mercury or other toxins. (Pregnant women should consult with their doctors about consuming fish.) If you don’t like fish, a quality supplement like Beachbody’s Core Omega-3™ will give you the benefits without the fishy taste.

Olive oil – Heart-healthy oils like olive, canola, and peanut oil are excellent sources of fat for dieters. They have also been shown to lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Use them sparingly when sautéing, or drizzle them over your favorite salad or vegetables with a little vinegar and some herbs to maximize the absorption of nutrients. Moderation is important: You really only need about a teaspoon of oil to get all its benefits. Using more will add significant calories.

Avocados – Eat a spinach and carrot salad with a little avocado, and you’ll not only get a dose of good fat, but you’ll also absorb more phytonutrients like lutein and beta-carotene. Scientists avocadosat Ohio State University in Columbus found that more antioxidants were absorbed when people ate a salad containing avocados than when they ate a salad without this tasty fruit. One-quarter of an avocado will add flavor while only adding about 75 calories.

Nuts – Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts are powerhouses of good nutrition—full of antioxidants, minerals, and monounsaturated fat. The Nurses Health Study, where more than 86,000 nurses were followed for 14 years, found that those who ate nuts regularly (about an ounce per day) tended to weigh less than those who didn’t. The protein, fat, and fiber make nuts more filling, which helps dieters stay on track. Plus there’s a psychological bonus to eating nuts: Because they’re rich and satisfying, you probably won’t feel like you’re on a diet.

Flaxseeds Packing the triple wallop of fat, protein, and fiber, flaxseeds are a delicious and healthful addition to any diet. You can grind them up and add them to oatmeal, yogurt, salads, or vegetables, or pretty much anywhere you want a nutty crunch. They’re a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, making them a good choice for vegetarians or the aforementioned non-fish-loving folks. Ground flaxseeds also have 3 grams of fiber per tablespoon, which helps slow digestion and keep your blood sugar stable.

Making room for fat Certain fats might be considered necessary for health, but that’s not a cue to overindulge. At 9 calories per gram, fat is a more concentrated energy source than either protein or carbohydrates (each has 4 calories per gram). You need to be mindful of your overall caloric intake if you want to eat more fat and lose weight. But when you feel full and satisfied after eating the right kinds of fat, you’ll probably find it a bit easier to manage your calories.

BIO –  Melody Garza  MS RD CISSNFirst & foremost, Melody Garza is a daughter, sister, aunt, girlfriend, best friend, & athlete … without these core roles, there would be an inability for her to triumph as a successful entrepreneur. Melody was born in Mexico & grew up in Texas; however, her life is on the sunny beaches of Florida now. She is a Registered Dietitian with a Bachelors’ degree in Kinesiology and Sports Science, a Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics, licensed as a massage therapist/colon hydrotherapist, and a Certified Sports Nutritionist with the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Melody Garza was a 3-sport athlete at the high school level and continued as a 2-sport athlete in college. Now, she plays beach volleyball competitively; winning several women and coed tournaments. At 23 Melody co-owned an in-home personal training/massage therapy business in Naples, Fl. Although she left the company to pursue a higher education, entrepreneurship is a passion of hers, especially in the wellness industry. Now at 30,Melody offer services ranging from fitness coaching to nutrition counseling; sharing alternative forms of medicine to being environmentally friendly; and business consulting for those who want to work from home.  Melody strongly believes in a holistic approach to wellness. Wellness is a life-style that adheres to a balance of health that decreases the likelihood of becoming ill physically, mentally, and spiritually. Comprised of seven dimensions and characteristics, wellness is achieved when a person’s like includes all seven elements in combination and in whole. She is committed to making a difference in people’s lives by helping them achieve total wellness. As a coach and mentor, Melody is more like an accountability partner. She’s been through the journey of seeking total wellness, so Melody doesn’t speak to you as a trainer but rather a voice of experience.  For more info, go to www.LiveWellWithMel.com