Preventing sports injuries

The role of Omega 3

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If you are an athlete, you have probably had to deal with injuries in the past, either your own or your teammates’. Sports-related injuries may be caused by falls, crashes, chronic stress of one or more body parts, dislocations (to name but a few) and the symptoms are well known: pain, heat, discomfort, loss of use of the affected body part.

The good news is that there is a way a scientifically-proven, exceptionally simple, safe and cheap way – to prevent injuries. Contrary to popular belief, these injuries are no accident, but rather the result of repeated trauma linked to certain types of activities (running, cycling, swimming etc.) and latent chronic inflammatory conditions that encourage injuries and slow down the healing process.

In a 2015 study, Dr Morten Bryhn demonstrated that it is possible to prevent sports-related injuries and improve both healing times and natural healing processes by simply ensuring a constant and adequate intake of Omega 3. You have probably heard this essential fatty acid mentioned a million times as it is useful in many ways and valued mostly for assisting the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system. But it is also a nutrient which is capable of preventing inflammation and accelerating the healing process after injuries.

Let us now take a detailed look at how you can best incorporate it into your daily diet.

THE PROPER BALANCE BETWEEN OMEGA 3 AND OMEGA 6

Inflammation and natural healing processes are influenced by the relationship between the quantities of Omega 3 and Omega 6 present in our bodies. An excess of the former and shortage of the latter not only slows down healing, but may even cause the onset of inflammation, increasing the risk of injury.

Preventing sports-related injuries is a matter of tipping the scales in favour of Omega 3. The optimal ratio between these two fatty acids is 1 (Omega 3) to 5 (Omega 6). However, the balance usually seen in the Western population on average, athletes included, is quite the opposite: ranging from 1 (Omega 3) to 17 (Omega 6) to 1 (Omega 3) to 40 (Omega 6).

It is therefore no surprise, that there are a high number of injuries and a booming market for painkillers and anti-inflammatories, even though the frequent and prolonged use of such drugs is actually not recommended for treating injuries. Regular use of these drugs not only leads to unpleasant side effects and an excessive strain on the gastrointestinal system, but it also gives a distorted perception of pain, which certainly does not help users to evaluate and so treat their injuries correctly.

OMEGA 3: FROM FOOD OR FROM SUPPLEMENTS?

The diet and lifestyle of the Western population are the main factors responsible for this inverse balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6. The best sources of Omega 3 are oily fish (tuna, cod, mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring) and certain types of seaweed. Sources of Omega 6 include corn, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, beef, poultry and egg yolk.  Our Western diet, apart from including very few foods which are naturally rich in Omega 3, also favours the consumption of foods that may come from polluted farms or environments, meaning that the quantity and quality of Omega 3 available in these ingredients are both compromised.

There are two ways to reverse this situation and so prevent sports-related injuries.

  1. Greatly increase your consumption of foods that contain Omega 3 (seaweed and fresh, oily fish) and significantly reduce your consumption of foods that contain Omega 6.
  2. Take daily Omega 3 supplements.

OMEGA 3 SUPPLEMENTATION: HOW AND WHEN

If you decide to prevent injuries by taking Omega 3 in supplement form, here are a couple of tips to get the best out of it:

Firstly, choose a high-quality supplement. Check the origins and certifications of the product being offered to you. The recommended daily dose for an anti-inflammatory function is around 1600mg of Omega 3 per day but it may vary according to your body weight. And secondly, be aware that the best time to take your Omega 3 supplements is in the evening, either with dinner or before you go to bed.

Enjoy your injury-free exercise!

Article written in collaboration with Dr. Alessandro Manca, a doctor of Sports Science and Nutrition Expert for NAMEDSPORT>

Sources:

  • Morten Bryhn (2015) Prevention of Sports Injuries by Marine
    Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 34:sup1, 60-61, DOI:
    10.1080/07315724.2015.1080533

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