Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are, as their name implies, essential for the body to function. Although the word “fat” or “fatty” generally carries a negative connotation in the fitness world the essential fatty acids described in this article are required for survival. A deficiency of essential fatty acids can be very harmful to the human body; this, coupled with the fact that in most cases humans do not produce essential fatty acids naturally, makes it a very important link in the supplement chain. In addition, a surplus of essential fatty acids can be very beneficial; more specifically, supplementing high doses of essential fatty acids can aid your growth in the gym in tremendous ways. EFAs do this by promoting a healthy cardiovascular and immune system as well as brain function.
So, what exactly are essential fatty acids and where can we get them?
There are two known EFA’s that work in humans: alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) and linoleic acid (omega-6). Both are polyunsaturated fats and are essential to the balanced healthy human. There are two ways to get EFA’s; through food and through supplements such as fish or krill oil. You can read a great review on krill oil vs. fish oil here.
How do they help us and what’s the difference between omega 3 and omega 6?
Omega-3 fatty acids are the main player in the game when it comes to boosting your workout. Research has shown omega-3 to aid in organ functionality, increase cell activity in the body, red blood cell functionality, oxygen circulation, and cell wall construction. Simply put, the benefits of supplementing omega-3 can be directly related to your performance in the gym, and it’s not hard to see why. If you’re looking for a natural source for omega-3 try the following: walnuts, sesame seeds, spinach, salmon and tuna
Omega-6 fatty acids play a smaller role in the weight room, but is the real power player when it comes to EFA’s. Benefits of omega-6 include healthy skin, strong immune system, and bone health. Omega-6 supplementation can be tricky for some as in most cases humans do get enough omega-6 in their normal diet, but create a deficiency by consuming foods high in sugar or trans fats. If you’re looking for a natural source of omega-6 try the following: flaxseed oil, pistachios, chicken and olive oil
How to supplement to maximize efforts in the gym
While there are many natural sources of EFA’s in our diet, supplementation is the most efficient way to make sure you’re getting the right amount. But, how much is the right amount? Well, like with all supplements the process of trial and error is a great tool to discover your body’s specific response. With that said, following the instructions on the bottle of your EFA supplement is your best option for starting out, although some people choose to increase their intake beyond the information label’s suggestion. EFA’s are not only required for a healthy existence, they allow you to you reach your maximum potential/gains in the gym along with a number of other significant health benefits.