Science-Backed Benefits of Fish Oil

Muscles. Memory. Mood. Metabolism. Fish oil betters them all.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

The promise of a new protein technology or preworkout formula might seem super sexy, but when it comes to supporting the fundamental systems of the body — the very foundation of good health and razor-sharp fitness — nothing beats the multi-pronged attack of fish oil.

Scientists first noticed a correlation between people who ate fish and a lower incidence of heart disease in the 1970s. Since then, research has linked eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the two main components of fish oil, with improving everything from erectile dysfunction to eczema. Fish oil is truly the Swiss Army knife of supplements.

Eating fish

Fish Oil, Muscle Gain and Fat Burn

When it comes to burning fat and improving body composition, fish oil is key. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that subjects who took 4 grams of fish oil per day for six weeks increased muscle mass and reduced body fat, and another study published in the journal Clinical Science found that healthy subjects who took 4 grams of fish oil for eight weeks enjoyed a greater muscle-building response to insulin and dietary amino acids.

Fish oil also can improve performance in athletes: A study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine showed that elite female soccer players who took 3.5 grams of fish oil (specifically DHA) per day for four weeks saw significant improvement in neuromotor function and reaction time.

Researchers believe that fish oil increases the activation of the mTOR pathway, a signal in the body that initiates protein synthesis, while also decreasing cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol has been linked to sugar cravings, fat storage and metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance and obesity, and reducing cortisol should be on everyone’s list of get-lean goals.

Fish Oil and Mental Health

A mountain of clinical research supports the potent depression-fighting powers of daily exercise. However, depression often robs people of their motivation to work out. Fish oil can help break this cycle of depression and inactivity and create a self-perpetuating momentum of exercise and improved mental health: A study published in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry showed that subjects with depression who ate a combination of a diet rich in fish oil and supplementation for six months reported greater mental health improvement than subjects who attempted to attenuate depression through social interactions alone.

It’s not known exactly how fish oil alleviates depression, but depressed people often have deficiencies in both EPA and DHA as well as a smaller hippocampus, the area of the brain that regulates emotions. Fish oil has been shown to stimulate hippocampal growth while also counteracting the deficiency of EPA and DHA in depressed people.

Fish Oil Supplements

The best food sources for EPA and DHA are (obviously) fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies, mackerel, tuna and albacore. Foodstuffs such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts and certain types of fortified eggs also contain decent levels of EPA and DHA. However, in most of the studies, the greatest benefits of fish-oil supplementation occurred when subjects consumed about 4 grams per day. Since fish can be expensive and time-consuming to cook, supplementation is a good option for those dedicated to healthy living on a budget. 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Fish Oil

Dymatize Omega-3 Fish Oil is a high-potency source of EPA and DHA. Each serving contains 1,660 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, with an equitable distribution of EPA and DHA. Every two-capsule serving also contains a small amount of DPA (docosapentaenoic acid), a third type of fish oil that is currently being studied for its impressive ability to fight inflammation.