Essential Fats Supplement Guide
Scientists and dietitians have known for a long time that essential fatty acids (EFAs) support the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems. Over the last 10 years studies have been conducted into the effects of EFAs on athlete performance and bodybuilders are now starting to realize the importance of EFAs in muscle building.
What are essential fatty acids?
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are necessary fats that humans cannot synthesize, and must be obtained through diet. EFAs are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from linolenic, linoleic, and oleic acids.
There are two families of EFAs: Omega-3 and Omega-6. Omega-9 is necessary yet “non-essential” because the body can manufacture a modest amount on its own, provided essential EFAs are present.
The number following “Omega-” represents the position of the first double bond, counting from the terminal methyl group on the molecule. Omega-3 fatty acids are derived from Linolenic Acid, Omega-6 from Linoleic Acid, and Omega-9 from Oleic Acid.
You can learn more about each individual fatty acid on our omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 information pages.
What do EFAs do?
Some of the roles EFAs play in bodily function:
- Transport oxygen from red blood cells to the tissues
- Promote brain development
- Keep saturated fats mobile in the blood stream
- Are an anti-inflammatory (rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease)
- Regulate pressure in the eye, joints, and blood vessels, and mediating immune response
- Regulate bodily secretions and their viscosity
- Dilate or constricting blood vessels
- Regulate collateral circulation
- Reduces blood pressure / Dilates blood vessels
- Regulate cell division rate
- Maintain the fluidity and rigidity of cellular membranes
- Regulate the inflow and outflow of substances to and from cells
- Direct endocrine hormones to their target cells
- Maintain proper kidney function and fluid balance
- Prevent blood cells from clumping together (blood clots that can be a cause of heart attack and stroke)
- Regulate smooth muscles and autonomic reflexes
- Regulate nerve transmission and communication
- Support cardiovascular health
The role of EFAs in bodybuilding:
In a Danish study it was found that quality nutritional oil blend with the correct 2:1:1 ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 (EFAs) and omega-9 at the rate of 15ml per 25kg of bodyweight per day will:
- Enhance stamina by 40 – 60%
- Improve muscular development (anabolic)
- Allow more frequent training without over training symptoms
- Speed recovery from exhaustion and training sessions.
- Speed healing of injuries
- Improve sleep in some athletes
- Improve concentration
- Improve skin conditions
- Improve cardiovascular function
- Lower cardiovascular function
- Lower the insulin requirements in people with type 1 diabetes
You can read our full article on EFAs & bodybuilding – the role of essential fats in bodybuilding.
Types of EFA supplements:
The most common type of EFA supplement comes in pill form. Pills may consist of pure omega-3, pure omega-6 or a blend. Many popular products also include a blend of vitamins and minerals.
Another popular, and more effective, way of supplementing with EFAs is with a oil. Oil supplements can easily be added to food and often contain the perfect ratios of EFAs.
Side effects of EFAs?
No adverse side effects should be expected when supplementing with EFAs, whether from pill or oil form.