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  | By Irina Belfer-Lehat

While many of us think of Omega-3 Fatty Acids as being good for heart health, new research shows Omega-3s also provide benefits for athletes.

What are Fatty Acids?
Fatty Acids, which are long chains of carbon, are classified as saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Polyunsaturated fats contain Omega-3s and Omega-6s. Although there is wide variability between people, most Americans consume 10 times more Omega-6s than Omega-3s. Most experts agree a healthier ratio would be closer to 2:1.

How can Omega-3s benefit athletes?
Faster recovery: Fish oil supplementation consistently results in lower levels of inflammation. If inflammation remains elevated after exercise, this can negatively impact muscle soreness, tissue repair and other aspects of recovery.

Reduce muscle soreness: Omega-3 Fats have also been shown to augment blood flow to muscles during exercise, decrease muscle soreness by 35 percent, reduce swelling and increase the range of motion after damaging exercise.

Burn fat and slow muscle loss: Studies also show that increasing Omega-3 levels enhances insulin sensitivity, which improves fat burning in muscles and inhibits fat storage. Omega-3s may regulate muscle growth and help during extended periods of rest by slowing the loss in both muscle and bone. This could apply to athletes during breaks in training or layoffs due to injury where muscle loss could be significant.

Where to find Omega 3s?
Salmon: Salmon is an excellent source of protein, vitamins, and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Eat baked salmon one to two times per week.

►Chia seeds: Chia seeds provide many health benefits, providing Omega-3s, carbohydrates, protein and fiber. Chia seeds are an unprocessed, whole grain food that can be absorbed by the body as seed. Chia expands in your stomach, helping you feel full and eat less. Chia seeds can be added to any food, such as water, yogurt or a smoothie.

Walnuts: Out of all the nuts, walnuts are the highest in Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Being high in antioxidants, walnuts have cancer-fighting properties and are good for heart health. Walnuts are the perfect addition to any green salad.

Irina Belfer-Lehat

Irina Belfer-Lehat of Nutrition Solutions Co. is a New York State-licensed dietitian and certified dietitian-nutritionist. Irina Lehat RD Nutrition Solutions offers group classes starting in September, for kids in kindergarten through high school. Small groups, affordable prices! Mention this article and receive 20 percent off any services. For more information, call (917) 769-8031, e-mail or visit