Supplementing with Fish Oil for Bodybuilding

When it comes to supplements, most bodybuilders want as much flash as possible. It has to make big promises or it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. Fish oil? Nah, that’s boring. How can that help me reach my goals? You might be surprised. Read on and find out!

What Is Fish Oil?

Fish Oil is the oil that’s taken from the tissue of “oily” fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, anchovies, and mackerel. It’s important because it provides essential fatty acids (EFAs), namely the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

These fatty acids are called “essential” because we need them for overall good health but they cannot be produced by our body, therefore they must come from diet and supplements. While this article looks specifically at the benefits of fish oil for bodybuilding, essential fatty acids should be part of everyone’s diet.

Benefits Of Fish Oil For Bodybuilders

I’ve always looked at fish oil as a sound addition to any bodybuilder’s cornerstone supplement program.

Of course, the bottom line for most bodybuilders is to gain lean size. You can’t be too big, right? That’s true, but it should be understood that basic good health is one of the keys to your bodybuilding success.

Building a solid foundation of health requires taking the time to understand the benefits of a good multi-vitamin and yes, fish oil. These two products will help cover your basic health needs, so you can focus on achieving your goals faster and easier. 

Benefits of fish oil for bodybuilders include:

  1. Faster recovery from workouts
  2. Improved joint health
  3. Fat loss
  4. Mass gains

Faster Recovery

Recovery is one of the primary keys to muscle growth. Why? You grow when you allow your body time to recover. This is one of the most important yet overlooked aspects of bodybuilding.

You don’t grow from spending endless hours knocking out endless sets 7 days a week. You grow when you give your body time to rest and catch up to the gains you stimulate in the gym.

Fish oil has anti-inflammatory benefits, which means it can help lower muscle soreness and speed up your body’s ability to recover after a workout. That benefit alone makes it a good addition to your program.

Improved Joint Health

Of course, talking about the anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil means you have to talk about joint support.

Let’s be real, sore joints can be a common problem among bodybuilders, especially if you use heavy weights. Fish oil is a common ingredient in many joint health products, and for good reason: it can help reduce swelling and ease discomfort.

Supports Fat Loss 

If you compete or just want to look good during the summer, you should follow a seasonal approach to bodybuilding. When it’s time to get ripped, you’ll need to eat, train and supplement accordingly.

Fish oil is thought to help speed your metabolism, so you’ll burn more calories and lose more fat.

Supports Mass Gains

Fish oil has never really been thought of as a supplement that can support muscle growth. However, recent studies have suggested that it may help.

How does it do this? One way, of course, is by supporting recovery. Another way is by supporting testosterone production. Specifically, this is connected to the ability of testosterone to support protein synthesis.

This process, of course, is the key to muscle growth. In fact, it can be said that protein synthesis is muscle growth. Making the most of the process of muscle growth is one of the most exciting things about bodybuilding. Of course, any bodybuilder serious about size wants all the help they can get.

How Much Fish Oil Should You Take?

The National Institutes of Health recommends between 1g and 1.6g of omega 3’s daily, depending on your age and gender.

However, this is the amount intended for the general public. Bodybuilders should take at least 2g per day, and a dose of up to 5g per day is considered safe.

Can You Take Too Much?

Supplementing with anything above 5g of fish oil per day is overdoing it.

It should be noted that if you eat a lot of fish, that should count towards your daily total. Therefore, it’s a good idea to know how much EPA and DHA is in the fish that’s already part of your daily diet. 

When Is The Best Time To Take Fish Oil?

You can take fish oil in divided doses throughout the day, say 1g with a meal or snack.

By following this approach, you’ll cut down on any potential “fish burps” or odor, and it will be easier for your body to digest. 

Does It Matter What Kind of Fish Oil You Take?

The omega 3’s found in fish oil are considered essential fatty acids. There are more EFAs than just EPA and DHA, just as there are more omega fatty acids than just omega 3’s. 

Omega 3 vs Omega 6 vs Omega 9 – What’s The Difference?

Aside from EPA and DHA, another omega 3 is ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). ALA is commonly found in non-fish sources of omega 3’s such as nuts and flax. This form is not as effective as EPA and DHA.

Omega 6 fatty acids are also an important component of good overall health, and come with different benefits than omega 3’s. 

Omega 6 fatty acids consist of linoleic acid and arachidonic acid. The typical Western diet supplies plenty of these so even though they are essential, getting enough is not usually a problem.

Omega 6’s mainly support cellular energy, although some of them (such as gamma-linolenic acid) may be helpful for joint pain. The popular diet supplement CLA is an omega 6 and is considered helpful for fat loss.

Finally, there are omega 9 fatty acids. Omega 9 fatty acids are considered non-essential, which means the body can produce them. Oleic acid is the most common omega 9 and helps lower cholesterol.

Does Fish Oil Have Any Side Effects?

If you take more than the recommended amount of fish oil, side effects can include excessive fish burps, heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea.

As is the case with every supplement, more is not better. Stick to the recommended dosage in order to avoid any unpleasant side effects. 

Considerations For Bulking vs Leaning Out

When it comes to bulking, you should be following a lean bulk plan. There’s no reason to get excessively fat in the off-season.

This is especially true for competitive bodybuilders. Why get out of shape and then have to resort to a drastic diet to get back in shape again?

Gain lean mass slowly, watch your waistline, and have a plan.

  • What do I want to work on during my off-season?
  • How much time do I have?

With your plan in place, increase your protein intake and keep carbs higher on training days and lower on off days. Take fish oil as suggested to help you get the most out of your lean bulk program.

I can relate to the idea of a lean bulk. Back when I started bodybuilding (in 1980!), I was using the “Universal” bodybuilding system. The idea was to bulk up in the off-season, and then diet back down. Their approach was to shovel two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a glass of milk into your mouth after every meal.

I bulked up pretty quick, but it sure wasn’t muscle! You were supposed to be able to diet back down to a bigger physique than the one you had when you started. I can tell you from experience, that’s not quite how it works. It took me quite a bit of time and effort to get back in lean condition. Lesson learned, there’s never a good reason to let yourself get too out of shape. 

Sparing muscle mass is the name of the game when you’re leaning out for a contest (or working on your beach body). Lose fat slowly, keep protein intake high, cycle carbs, reduce simple carbs and emphasize supplements like fish oil that have anti-catabolic properties. 

What Supplements Should I Stack With Fish Oil? 

Fish oil can be stacked with virtually anything. Your year-round cornerstone supplement arsenal should consist of protein powder, creatine, a multi, fish oil, and a balanced pre-workout.

Optional supplements for bodybuilding include a good test booster, and BCAAs/EAAs (which are included in the better pre-workout formulas).

This complete supplement program is a good fit for fish oil. Of course, adjust your program to your goals by including additional supplements specific to fat loss or muscle growth. 

Are There Any Supplements I Should Avoid?  

The only consideration here is that you should take your multivitamin at a separate time of the day. A solid routine could look like this: fish oil with breakfast, a snack and lunch throughout the day, followed by a multivitamin with dinner.

Of course, you can play with this idea so long as you allow several hours between your fish oil and your multi.

Considerations For Women

Everything we’ve discussed regarding fish oil applies to both men and women. The major difference is that women should take half the daily dosage suggested for men, unless you are pregnant or nursing (in which case, be sure to consult your healthcare professional for advice).

Additionally, fish oil provides certain benefits that women will appreciate, such as healthy skin and bones. It should be noted that fish oil supports overall cognitive health, and this is true for both men as well as women.

Final Thoughts on Fish Oil for Bodybuilding

Fish oil is should be an important part of your cornerstone supplement program whether bodybuilding is a goal or not. This is especially true if you don’t like fish and it’s not a big part of your normal diet.

For bodybuilders, the fact that fish oil can help with recovery, joint health, muscle mass, and fat loss makes it even more important. So why wait? Go fishing and add it to your arsenal of trusted supplements.

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