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From the CFI Vault: Alpha and Omega

By Marcus | In Nutrition | on July 14, 2011

We trainers have a common assumption about you athletes at CrossFit Intrepid. We believe that you come in to suffer through WODs not merely to fill an hour of your day, but to improve yourself in some fashion. This improvement may be a goal for fat loss, strength gain, athletic improvement or greater health. Nutrition plays a huge role in all of the above. I’ve posted before on the benefits of fish oil and you’ve likely heard me in the gym championing it as well. But what about other sources that claim to be high in omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids come in 3 forms: ALA, EPA and DHA. For our purposes, we’re primarily interested in EPA and DHA. These are the forms that provide all the touted benefits for humans. The easiest way to obtain these is from an animal source, such as fish or meat. While flaxseed oil is advertised as having high omega-3 content, it’s all in the form of ALA. Sadly, humans are only able to convert about 15% of ALA into EPA and 5% into DHA. This conversion of ALA into EPA and DHA is how we can get omega-3 eggs. Basically, we are letting the chickens do the work for us and this allows us to reap the EPA/DHA.

Obviously fish don’t eat flaxseeds, so you may wonder where their EPA/DHA content comes from. Through the aquatic food chain, smaller fish eat algae which is high in DHA content then bigger fish eat these smaller fish and so on. This is why it is important to eat wild fish rather than farm-raised varieties. Science has found a way to harvest the DHA from this algae, which is how we can purchase omega-3 milk.

While there are these alternative methods to obtain our EPA and DHA, it’s both most efficient and cost-effective to go with fish oil. The algae-derived DHA is prohibitively expensive and the sheer amount of flaxseed oil you would need to consume to convert from ALA would be inconvenient, at best. As far as milk and eggs, you can make your own call on that. I’ll spring for the omega-3 eggs but would rather get grass-fed, cream-top milk than standard homogenized milk with DHA added.

WOD 7.14.11

Gymnastics WOD

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