Omega-3s, Key Nutrients Every Runner Should Have In Their Diet

Omega-3s are one of the key nutrients every runner should have in their diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids because humans can not make them; therefore, they must be obtained through the diet or supplementation. Foods high in Omega-3 have been linked to reduced feelings of anxiety and depression by maintaining healthy levels of dopamine and serotonin, the brain chemicals responsible for keeping you happy. Omega-3 can be found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and anchovies as well as seeds such as flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds.

All the way back in 2007 Runners World ran a post about the effects of Omega-3 and noted that “scientific evidence is leading us to believe that omega-3s may not only alleviate joint pain, but may also prevent it”, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a dietitian with the Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “Omega-3s are one of the key nutrients every runner should have in their diet.”

A Natural Painkiller

Again, the Runners World article noted that at the forefront of the omega-3 / joint-pain research is Joseph Maroon, MD, a neurosurgeon at the University of Pittsburgh and an Ironman competitor. “Whether by running or other forms of stress or injury, our bodies are always producing inflammatory substances,” says Dr. Maroon. Omega-3s counter that production, Maroon adds, by Enhancing the creation of the natural anti-inflammatory prostaglandin E3, thus reducing the body’s level of tissue inflammation. Reduce inflammation and you hurt less and heal faster.

Women’s running delved into vegetarian sources of omega 3 fatty acids, known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), are found in a range of foods including flaxseed, hemp seed, chia seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, soybeans and green leafy vegetables. This type of omega-3 fat needs to be converted by the body into the longer chain fats found in animal sources of omega 3s, but research suggests that this conversion is relatively inefficient. So if you are a vegetarian, aim to eat these foods every day and consider taking a vegetarian DHA supplement.

Chia seeds, with 30 percent of their fat coming from omega-3 and 10 percent from omega-6. Chia, or salvia hispanica L, is a member of the mint family and native to Mexico and South America; it has been enjoyed for centuries as a food and medicine. Known as ‘the running food’, Chia seeds – with water – were the staple that fueled Aztec Warriors. Not only are they rich in omega 3s, but Chia seeds also pack a serious nutritional Punch for Runners, being high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibers and proteins.


Extra Sources

Runners World: Get Your Omega-3s 
Ascent Health: Omega-3 and Sport: How Fish Oil is Beneficial for Athletes 
Women's Running: The Benefits of Chia seeds and omega 3s