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The Benefits of Omega-3s for Endurance Athletes

There’s really nothing better than the view from the top of the trail after a tough training run or that rush of endorphins after a long workout. And all endurance athletes know that whole body wellness, including nutrition, is essential for maintaining fitness for the long haul. But sometimes, our diets -- even the ones we’ve planned meticulously! -- don’t provide all of the necessary nutrients our bodies require. Adding the right supplements to your regimen can help bridge the gap between your diet and the nutrition that your body needs to perform at its peak. We’ve all heard that Omega-3 fatty acids are great for our heart, joints, and brain, but did you know that there are also numerous specific benefits of Omega-3s for endurance athletes?

What exactly are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

A fatty acid is an organic compound that can be used for energy storage in the body or to form fats and other substances found in cell membranes. Unsaturated fatty acids are molecules that have one or more double bonds between carbon atoms. In an Omega-3 fatty acid, those double bonds all occur between carbons "3" and "6", which is why they are named Omega-3s.

While our body can create many of the necessary fatty acids we need, what makes Omega-3 fatty acids tricky is that we cannot make them on our own. Instead, we need to get them from our diet -- in fact, all the other members of the animal kingdom need to as well! Omega-3 fatty acids are important to maintain a healthy, working body, as they are used to regulate the nervous system, as basic building blocks for all of our cell membranes, to properly manage DNA replication, and as a primary storage medium for energy. They are really important!

The Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The most recent studies show that Omega-3 fatty acids can be found throughout the cell membrane of every single type of cell within the body. Omega-3s are also used to maintain cell membranes, a fatty layer around and inside every single one of your body's cells. Essentially, without these fats there would be no way for cells to maintain their shape. A deficit of Omega-3s often manifests in humans as dry skin, brittle nails, thin nails that peel and crack, as well as skin rashes and dandruff.

For athletes more specifically, Omega-3 fatty acids are important because of their role in both muscle performance and recovery after physical activity. Studies have also shown that Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically DHA (or docosahexaenoic acid), are essential for the creation of new blood vessels, which in turn increases the nutrients supplied to muscles and reduces post-workout muscle pain, decreasing downtime and increasing the rate of training. Recent data has also emerged that demonstrates the positive effect omega-3s have on skeletal muscle mass. Proper omega-3 fatty acid intake correlates to gains in muscle size and strength and can also alleviate the loss of muscle mass as an athlete ages or during moments when the muscles are used less, like after an injury.

Foods That Contain Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The best source of Omega-3 fatty acids is cold water fish because it contains the fatty acids EPA and DHA that have been linked to numerous health benefits of Omega-3s. Because Americans tend to not eat much fish, Omega-3 deficiencies are very common here, including among athletes who follow vegetarian or vegan diets. For this reason, many athletes take Omega-3 supplements to support whole body health in addition to a healthy diet.

Of all the supplements that contain Omega-3, krill oil is high quality and has some key advantages over fish oil. A pure Antarctic krill oil like Kori Krill Oil delivers Omega-3s in their most natural phospholipid form, just as you would find in a healthy fish diet, for superior Omega-3 absorption and no fishy aftertaste. Fish oil loses these phospholipids during processing. In the wild, krill feed on plankton (microscopic organisms), which happen to be rich in Omega-3 fatty acids themselves.

Newfound Benefits of Krill Oil for Athletes

In addition to Omega-3s, choline is another essential micronutrient found in krill oil. Choline's mechanisms in regular body function have only been recently uncovered, but in summary, choline plays a vital role in health maintenance throughout the lifespan. Essentially, choline is responsible for transporting fats out of the liver so they can be broken down and used for energy. However, when someone is choline deficient, this process of transforming fats to energy for muscle function is circumvented in order to free up choline for the brain, where it is also needed for neurotransmitter synthesis. Over time, this can lead to a buildup of fat in the liver, along with decreased energy as the body struggles to make use of its fat deposits.

Despite occurring naturally in common foods like fish, beef, poultry, eggs, beans and nuts, a recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that the overwhelming majority of people in the United States, at all stages of life, were choline deficient.

Strenuous and prolonged physical activity can significantly decrease the amount of choline circulating throughout the body, as it is expended to generate the energy needed to endure the physical challenge. However, when added to a very intense training regimen, choline supplementation has been shown to increase endurance over time.

Improved Performance from Krill Oil

Whether you are a long-distance runner or a weightlifter, any endurance athlete can benefit from the support of whole body health that krill oil has to offer. With additional omega-3 fatty acids that help support blood flow, circulation, and blood vessel regeneration, thus decreasing downtime, and the increased access to choline that is lacking from the average diet, krill oil is a must-have for any performance-minded athlete.

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