Loving the BITE: The Cyclists’ Guide to Fish Oil
It’s rare that I recommend a supplement to most all my clients without hesitation. However, when it comes to fish oil, I recommend it to almost 100% of them. In fact, I recommend eating fish high in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) AND supplementing with high-quality fish oil supplements (not either or). Why? Generally, the more omega-3s, the better. Since these fats promote the production of hormones that reduce inflammation, rather than the production of those that increase it, fish oil and omega 3 fat’s effects are far reaching and very important to cyclists.
This week, we’ll discuss a wonderful Wild Rainbow Trout recipe, other non-fish omega-3 foods, fish oil supplements, and how to get your whole family, cyclists and non-cyclists, to supplement it each day on the cheap. And, I’ll try to do it quick (or as concise as possible, at least)!
Recipe of the week: Jalapeno Grilled Trout
- 4 whole trout, cleaned
- 3 medium fresh seeded jalapeno peppers, chopped
- 4 medium green onions, chopped
- 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 cup bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup peeled, diced ripe mango
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- garlic salt, to taste
- black pepper, to taste
- Preheat a grill for medium heat, and place the rack 3 inches over the coals.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the ingredients from jalapenos through black pepper; set aside. Lightly coat four squares of foil with olive oil or cooking spray. Place fish diagonally on the foil, and stuff each with 1/4 of the mango stuffing. If it doesn’t all fit inside the fish, then just place the remainder on top of the fish. Fold the corners of the foil over the head and tail of the fish. Fold the remaining corners over the body of the fish.
- Cook the packets for about 20 minutes total, flipping once at 10 minutes. Trout is done when it flakes easily. Serves 4.
While I’m specifically highlighting fish oil this week, trout has a lot of specific benefits, and this recipe is perfect for summer! Trout is very high in protein, serving as many as 33 grams of protein for one filet (~5 ounces) and adding over 1500 mg of DHA and EPA (in combination) for this serving. Trout is great for overall health, and even includes a decent amount of calcium and B vitamins. Of course, wild caught salmon, tuna, mackerel, oysters, mollusks, halibut, sea bass, and mussels are good fatty fish/seafood choices high in omega 3 fats, too.
Importance of Omega 3s: Where do I start? At the heart of omega-3 fat benefits, is the balance of inflammatory hormones and anti-inflammatory hormones and their production in our bodies. When we eat diet high in omega 3s and lower in omega-6s, see below), specifically DHA and EPA, our bodies create and utilize more anti-inflammatory hormones. These hormones serve to keep our arteries flexible, our immune systems in check by reducing release of cytokines (cause allergy symptoms, fatigue, etc), improve brain function and brain cell rebuilding early and later in life, healthy gene regulation, maintain healthy vision and eye health, and of course, reduce inflammation. Bodily inflammation has direct impact on conditions like chronic fatigue, asthma, cancer, allergies, migraines, depression, psychosis, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis. As a cyclist, these conditions, or lack thereof, have a direct impact on your performance on the bike (lungs, joints, strength:weight, fatigue), your recovery, and your overall well-being.
Types of Omega 3s: There are 3 main types of omega 3 fats, DHA, EPA, and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). DHA and EPA come from fish and algae, ALA can be found in plant foods such as Chia, Flax, Hemp, Walnuts, Pumpkin Seeds, Canola, and more. While DHA and EPA have direct and potent effects on our health, ALA has to be converted to DHA or EPA by our bodies for the same anti-inflammatory benefits. While it used to be thought that this conversion happened readily, research now suggests that 15% or less of ALA is converted in healthy bodies. In the young, old, or in those with less than optimal health, this number drops further. But, before you throw away your Chia Pet, ALA has its own health benefit, but they are not the same as DHA and EPA, and should not be substituted for them. I still recommend high ALA foods, in addition to fish and fish oil. Additionally, you can get significant amounts of DHA/EPA in eggs from which the chickens were fed a high-omega-3 diet.
Guide to Fish and Cost-Effective Fish Oil: First, the quantity. I recommend 2, 6-ounce servings of fatty fish per week PLUS 1000 mg of DHA and EPA (in combination) per day for most athletes, adults, and teens. For children, who can also be fun-loving cyclists of course, I generally recommend half these amounts. The fish should be wild caught. Two servings are generally considered safe in terms of mercury exposure, but pregnant women may want to their intake to 8 oz. per week. If you’re not able to eat this amount, or don’t like to, you can increase your supplementation towards 2000 mg DHA/EPA per day.
When choosing fish oil:
- Choose fish oil made from small fish such as anchovies, sardines, and krill.* The 2 liquid brands below list “Other Ingredients: Purified deep sea fish oil (from anchovies and sardines), natural lemon flavor, d-alpha tocopherol, rosemary extract” and “Other Ingredients: Fish oil (sardine, anchovy), natural lemon flavor, natural tocopherols,” respectively.
- Choose fish oil with added antioxidants such as lemon components, rosemary, etc.
- Avoid fish oils with strong odors (may be rancid).
- *Of note, krill is another option for fish oil, and some studies have shown increased absorption from krill – so, the dose may be sufficient at 30-50% of fish oil. Krill has a natural antioxidant that protect the oil. Additionally, emulsified preparations may enhance absorption.
- Lastly, know how to read the label. Since different fish have different percentages of DHA and EPA in their oil, the mg of fish oil is different from the mg of DHA and EPA. You must turn the supplement bottle around and look at the nutrition label to see these amounts. And, note the serving size!
So how can you supplement fish oil, and get all these wonderful benefits on the cheap? Choose liquid fish oil rather than softgels. First, it is more concentrated. To get the amounts I recommend, you often have to take 4-5 softgels per day – this is not cost-effective or efficient. And forget the adult and children “gummy” fish oils. They have very little fish oil, and too much sugar and colorings. Liquid on the other hand, provides enough DHA and EPA in just 1 teaspoon serving.
But what about the “YUCK!” factor? Oh, I know, liquid fish oil doesn’t sound so good, right? Well, most liquid fish oil has antioxidants and natural lemon flavors added both to improve the taste and protect the oils so they actually make it to your bloodstream. It’s readily absorbed. And, despite many claims, I find less fishy-burp side effects with a good quality liquid than softgels. By using my “Mary Poppin’s” trick, you (and even your kids) will look forward to a spoonful of fish oil each day.
- Using organic (and/or raw & unfiltered), draw a circle of honey on a spoon. The honey will actually provide extra antioxidants to protect the oil, enzymes and antioxidants and increase absorption, and a great taste!
- Fill the circle with liquid fish oil.
- Take it straight off the spoon because “just a spoonful of honey helps the medicine go down…”
- If you do experience any fishy burps or stomach upset, try dividing the dose into 2 doses at different times of day.
My Brand Name & Generic Fish Oil Recommendations:
- Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Purified Fish Oil (16 oz. bottle = $38.2, 1 tsp = 1375 mg DHA/EPA; adults can take 3/4 tsp per day for 1000 mg DHA/EPA at $9.50 per month; and, children can take approximately 1/3 tsp per day for 500 mg DHA/EPA at $4.80 per month).
- Vitacost Finest Fish Oil (16.9 oz. bottle = $19.50, 1 tsp = 1300 mg DHA/EPA; adults can take ~3/4 tsp per day for 1000 mg DHA/EPA at $4.25 per month; and, children can take approximately 1/3-1/2 tsp per day for an average of 500 mg DHA/EPA at $2.40-$3.00 per month).
This week, let’s eat our catch and reduce our inflammation. Skip the candy-coated brightly colored fish oil supplements, and give our bodies the good stuff. If you don’t already, really consider taking this supplement every day. For cycling performance and overall health, the benefits are extensive.
Fuel Your Adventure. Nourish Your Body.