Omega-3 fatty acids have many health, beauty and fitness benefits, but in this article I’ll focus on the fitness benefits.

First, let’s examine some basic facts. According to the National Institute of Health, omega-3s are helpful in treating or preventing 37 conditions. This omega-3 fats are derived from the tissues of fatty, cold-water ocean fish. Salmon, anchovies and cod are examples of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but supplementing with fish oil is also a good way to get omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.

Here are some of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids:

Promotes heart health. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health found that eating about two grams per week of omega-3 fatty acids (equal to one or two servings of fatty fish) may reduce the chances of dying from heart disease by more than one third. This is because omega-3 fats protect the heart against the development of erratic cardiac rhythm disturbances, help break up blood clots and lower cholesterol, triglycerides, LDLs and blood pressure. In addition, the fats increase good HDL cholesterol.

Relieves joint pain. Lots of research has shown that incorporating omega-3s into your diet— or supplementing with fish oil— improves morning stiffness and joint tenderness for people who suffer from arthritis. For athletes who weight train, run or do any type of exercise, fish oil could help the joints, improve blood flow and prevent inflammation.

Can help to reduce fat. A study by Nutritional Physiology Research Group in Australia showed omega-3 fatty acids combined with exercise results in greater fat loss than exercise or using omega-3s alone.

Faster recovery from exercise. Recovery is important for results, and it also allows you to train harder.

Adding Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Your Diet

Fatty fish such as salmon, lake trout, oysters, halibut, tuna and sardines contain the most omega-3 fatty acids. Keep in mind that when you eat fish, you have to be careful regarding the mercury, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) content. Selecting smaller fish is a good idea, as large fish like shark and swordfish tend to have higher mercury levels.

The Mayo Clinic recommends that adults consume at least two servings (one serving size is 3.5 ounces) of fish a week. Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant and young children should limit the amount of fish they eat. This is because they’re more susceptible to the potential effects of toxins in fish. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends an intake of up to three grams a day, while the American Heart Association recommends eating fish two times a week.

If you’re looking for non-fish sources of omega-3 fatty acids, some examples are flaxseed oil, walnuts, canola oil and pumpkin seeds. In addition, the following foods are fortified with omega-3s: eggs, soymilk, yogurt, peanut butter, oatmeal and pasta, plus supplements such as soft gel pills, protein shakes and weight-loss shakes.

I like to use omega-3 fatty acids pills like Omega Strong from MHP because it is easy and has no fishy smell, taste and doesn’t result in “fish burps.” Also, it’s easier to get the exact amount I want.

Remember— always consult your doctor before adding a new supplement like fish oil to your diet. The Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding fish-derived omega-3 supplements if you are allergic or sensitive to fish, fish oil, or omega-3 fatty acid products derived from fish. Also avoid plant-derived omega-3 supplements if you are allergic or sensitive to the nuts, seeds or plants from which they are derived.

Rare Side Effects

According to the Mayo Clinic, omega-3 fatty acids may increase the risk of bleeding, may affect blood sugar levels, may cause low blood pressure, anorexia and others. This is rare, but as I mentioned, talk to your doctor before taking any kind of supplement.