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Omega 3 vs. Omega 6 – What’s the deal?

Omega Fatty Acids:

We often hear about the benefits of Omega-3’s through fish oil, flax/chia/hemp seeds, walnuts and more. But why? Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 are essential fats meaning our bodies cannot create them and we must consume them through food (or supplements). Our bodies use these fats to create other fats that have crucial functions in the body. However it is the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 Fatty Acids consumed that nutrition experts are most concerned about.

What is the proper ratio?

For quite some time, it was suggested we ate a ratio of 1:1 (Omega-6: Omega-3). However in today’s world where a sizeable proportion of calories are derived from processed foods rich in vegetable oils and animal-derived fats (namely grain-fed cattle) the ratio has shifted for most people to consuming 10-15:1! This all has created the need to move closer to the 1:1 by increasing Omega-3 consumption and reducing Omega-6 consumption to reduce arthritis inflammation, lower cardiac risk, and reduce brain inflammation (ie Alzheimer’s, mental illness).

In general, most organizations suggest around 500 mg/day of EPA/DHA, however The Institute of Medicine has gone a step further and encourages a daily intake of 1.6 g and 1.1 g per day for adult males and females, respectively.

What foods are rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

First, it’s important to know that there are three main types:

ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)

The first one – ALA – is found in many commonly consumed foods that also have Omega-6 Fatty Acids, hence there is less of a push for people to up their intake of ALA. Some foods with the highest ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 are fish and seafood, followed by beans (mung beans/black lentils), Peppermint and Spearmint herbs, green vegetables, tropical fruits, seeds, and mixed green salad.

The only true food source rich in DHA/EPA is fatty fish such as wild-caught salmon. If you are vegan, or do not consume fatty fish or fish oil, you may need to consider using an algal oil (or perilla oil) supplement. Current and limited research shows it could produce a similar effect to marine oils.

*It’s worth noting that current ocean pollution raises possible concerns regarding the safety of fish in general.

OMEGA FATTY ACID SIDE NOTES: You can still have too much of a good thing. While generally not problematic, excessive consumption of fish oil can increase your risk of bleeding and may suppress your immune response. If you take fish oil supplements, be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendation on dosage. Also double-check with your doctor, before taking a fish oil supplement, if you are on blood pressure medication as it has been shown to reduce blood pressure.

Now check out this list of Omega-3 rich foods to add to your shopping list!

Keep it simple with grilled salmon over veggies or try out this delicious recipe with arugula and veggie salad!

What to Eat, When to Eat, and What it Means for Your Workouts

Thankfully, it seems the era of fad-diets, fat-free, no-carb or other diets that entirely slash a whole category of macronutrients is coming to a close! But with that said, it is still difficult to find reliable information on proper nutrition! Let’s take a look at how eating factors into the effectiveness of your workouts, and maybe we can make sense of some of this.

“What should I eat before/after my workout?”

For most of us who exercise for health and not training for a high-level competition, our meals will contain some combination of high quality protein, high quality carbohydrates, healthy fats, and some fruit and vegetables 1-2 hours before and/or after your workout to get the maximal benefit. Whether it is “and” vs “or” will partly depend on the intensity/duration of your activity, daily caloric intake and what is on the menu for the rest of your day

Break it down for me: What’s important – and Why?

Protein can help maintain muscle size, reduce muscle damage, provide your bloodstream with amino acids when it needs them most, and helps you adapt to your exercise over the long term! But most people are at least somewhat aware of the importance of protein for strength training – what about carbohydrates?

Pre-Exercise carbs fuel your workout and help with recovery/muscle retention with even shorter, intense workouts. Post-exercise carbs however should come from whole foods like fruits and vegetables because these are better tolerated by the system than insulin-spiking refined carbohydrates and are just as good at restoring muscle glycogen over 24 hours.

Alright…but tell me more about “When”.

If you ate a normal-sized, balanced meal a couple of hours before training (or a smaller shake closer to training), then you have 1-2 hrs after training to eat your post-workout meal and still maximize the benefits of workout nutrition.

But if you are like many who work out early in the morning or directly after leaving work, and you ate only a small meal within the last 3-4 hours before your workout, or you are in a fasted state, then you should consume a meal within one hour after your workout to prevent a slowed recovery. A whole food meal pre/post workout provides many things including important phytonutrients that build muscle, supply energy, decrease inflammation, and boost recovery.

Ya know, it just isn’t the same for me!

You might be right! In the end, the total amount of protein and carbohydrate consumed over the course of the day is far more important to lean mass gain, fat loss, and performance improvements than any specific nutrient timing strategy. If you are a high-quality eater (you are only looking to tweak minor things) check out this infographic that further breaks down your meals by body type!

When in doubt, keep it simple and fill each nutrient slot:
Protein – Scrambled Eggs with veggies
Fat – 1 “thumb” of cheese
Carb – 1 slice of Ezekial toast or fruit

Now we’ve got some recipes to help make finding a well-balanced, complete meal a little easier for you!

Asian Scrambled Eggs:

Shake up your eggs with a few new elements like some incredibly healthy ginger root and nutritious snow peas!
Check the recipe here!

Classic Protein Pancakes:

Rolled oats, eggs, cottage cheese, fruit – these pancakes have everything you need to call them a complete meal!

Find this recipe and more on our previous blog post here!

PB & Chocolate Banana Shake:

1 scoop choc protein powder, 1 fistful of spinach, 1 banana, 1 “thumb” of peanut butter, and 8 oz choc unsweetened almond milk. Blend and enjoy!

Need even more ideas? How about Banana Cream Pie Oatmeal?? Peaches and Cream Omelet?? You can find those and MORE in Precision Nutrition’s Gourmet Recipes List!