Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify | Listen on YouTube

Supplementation can be overwhelming.

No matter what your goal is–build muscle, lose fat, improve health–there are hundreds of supplements to choose from.

And good luck trying to sort the wheat from the chaff.

If you’re to believe the hype, many of these pills and powders have downright magical properties and are capable of performing downright miracles.

Just one bottle of this, you’re told, will give you instant muscle gain. That one? It melts fat off your body. Those over there? They double your brainpower. And on and on.

I guess that’s why so many people spend so much money on supplements.

Well, if a part of you has suspected that the supplement industry is more smoke and mirrors than science and substance, you’re right.

It’s an unregulated rough and tumble of a marketplace that’s more or less a playground for rent-seeking bums and pirates.

That said, it’s not all bad.

There are supplements that have good science behind them and that can help you optimize your health and physical and mental performance.

Take something simple like vitamin D, for example.

It was long thought to be important for just bone health but we now know that it plays a crucial role in a whole host of vital physiological processes, and unless you spend a lot of time in the sun, supplementation is the only way to give your body what it needs.

Fish oil is another good example because it provides your body with two nutrients that are otherwise hard to get enough of through diet alone:

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

What are these molecules and why are they so important, you ask? What do they do in the body and what kind of benefits do they confer?

And what about fish oil supplements? Which ones are good and which aren’t and why?

Listen to this episode to find out!


4:40 – What is a fish oil supplement? 

8:53 – What are the benefits of getting enough EPA and DHA in your diet?

17:38 – How does an omega 3 fatty acid affect muscle gain? 

19:31 – How much fish oil should I take? 

21:12 – What are the different types of fish oil? 

Mentioned on The Show:

Books by Mike Matthews

Triton Fish Oil

What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!


Hello and happy Monday. I think that’s a thing now, right now that gyms are starting to open back up and we get to go in and participate in international chess day, and then we get to go home and get into our comfy work attire, maybe pajamas or underwear or maybe in the nude. And then we don’t get interrupted by coworkers every 10 minutes or have to attend 10 pointless meetings back to back.

And we get to take our time to make delicious home cooked meals and better control our calories and our macros and our nutrition. And that’s what I hope for you at least. I hope that your quarantine has been more or less like that. I hope there has been a. Thick silver lining, and I hope that you are coming out of this a little bit better in some way than you went into it.

And I hope that you are more than ready. I hope that you are chopping at the bit to give back to life as we know it and are able to do just that. And that’s not gonna be the topic of today’s podcast though. Let’s just change gears here abruptly and talk about fish oil. That’s what we’re gonna talk. Fish oil, and this is one of the fundamental supplements that I recommend, For example, in Bigger, Leaner, Stronger, and thin, Leaner, stronger.

I recommend six supplements as not necessary because no supplements are necessary, but. As the ones that form the 20% that are going to give you 80% of the benefits, right? The Predo principle applied to supplementation and fish oil is on that list. Vitamin D is on that list as well. These supplements provide our body with vital nutrients that we can get through food.

In the case of vitamin D, that would be through fortified food. Obviously the best way to naturally get in vitamin D would be to get out in the sun and make sure that you are exposing enough skin for enough time. Research shows, for example, that in the Florida summer, sun midday, the nuclear reactor of Florida, if you have about 25% of your skin exposed, You can get out there for probably 15 to 20 minutes per day, and that will produce enough vitamin D in your body to maintain sufficiency.

That’ll be the case for most people. Now in the case of fish oil, however, the reason why it is a supplement that I think everyone should consider. Taking is it provides your body with two nutrients that are hard to get through diet alone. You can do it, but very few people actually do. And these are ico, Apen, Acid, also known as just EPA and diosa, Hein, NOIC acid, dha.

Why are these molecules so important and what are they? What do they do in the body, and what kind of benefits do they confer? Let’s find out also, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world.

Bigger, leaner, stronger. Thinner, leaner, stronger, as well as the leading flexible dieting cookbook, the Shredded Chef. Now, these books have sold well over 1 million copies and have helped thousands of people build their best body ever, and you can find them on all major online retailers like Audible, Amazon, iTunes, Cobo, and Google Play, as well as in select Barnes and Noble stores.

And I should also mention that you can get any. Audio books 100% free when you sign up for an Audible account. And this is a great way to make those pockets of downtime, like commuting, meal prepping, and cleaning more interesting, entertaining, and productive. And so if you want to take audible up on this offer, and if you want to get one of my audio books for free, just go to Legion.

That’s b y Sign up for your account. So again, if you appreciate my work and if you wanna see more of it, and if you wanna learn time proven and evidence based strategies for losing fat, building muscle and getting healthy, and strategies that work for anyone and everyone, regardless of age or circumstances, please do consider picking up one of my best selling books.

Bigger, Leaner, Stronger for Men, Thinner, Leaner, Stronger for Women, and. Shredded chef for my favorite fitness friendly recipes.

So let’s start this discussion with a simple overview of what a fish oil supplement is. It is, of course, exactly what it sounds like. It’s oil that’s obtained from fish. However, most people don’t know that popular sources of fish oil are salmon, herring, macro sardines, and. Anchovies. And so if you like to eat those types of fish, you actually can remove the need for fish oil supplement by just eating enough servings of fatty fish like those every week.

Now, that’s also the reason why fish oil is a very popular. Supplement. Most people don’t want to eat several servings of those types of fish every week. And then you also have to take into account pollutants. In fish and mercury in particular. You wanna make sure that you are not exceeding a healthy level of mercury intake.

And of course it’s best to avoid it all together. But if you’re going to eat fish really of any kind, you can’t avoid it completely. You just wanna stick to low mercury fish. Now, EPA and DHA are known as omega-3 fatty acids, and that just refers to their physical structure. And our body can’t produce these molecules, and that’s why they’re also known as essential fatty acids.

So if we were to completely remove these substances from our diet, if our body was not getting. at all whatsoever. Eventually we would die. And that’s of course is why people supplement with fish oil. But there’s more to it because when you maintain sufficient plasma blood, epa, DHA levels, there are many different.

Ways that you benefit from this, including reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and type two diabetes, decreasing systemic inflammation, improving mood, cognitive performance, and brain health, helping prevent weight gain, optimizing fat loss when you’re cutting and even accelerating muscle growth now.

As far as how much is needed to reap all those benefits and others, research shows that a combined intake of 500 milligrams to about 1.8 grams of EPA and DHA per day is adequate, but you can get additional benefits with more up to even an intake of about six grams combined. Not each but combin. Per day.

And unfortunately, studies show that the average person’s diet here in the West provides just one 10th of the amount of EPA and DHA that’s needed to just preserve health and prevent disease. And fatty fish are not the only way to do this. You can also get EPA and DHA through grass fed meat, through free range eggs, as well as vegetable oils.

But the problem is the omega3 levels are much lower in meat and eggs than fish and vegetable oils actually don’t contain EPA and dha, but instead they contain a fatty acid called alpha linolenic acid. ALA is how it’s generally referred to. And then the body converts the ALA into EPA and dha, and there’s a problem with that.

That conversion process is. Inefficient. So you have to eat a rather large amount of ALA to get a surplus of EPA and dha if all you wanna do is maintain basic sufficiency and avoid the negative side effects of inadequate EPA and DHA intake. ALA is fine and so that’s good news for vegans. You don’t necessarily have to take a an omega-3 supplement if you’re a vegan, if you’re willing to eat enough.

Ala, and that’s one reason why flax is particularly popular with many vegans, by the way, is it’s a good source of ala, it tastes good. It can be added to various types of meals, but this is one of the major downsides to vegan eating. If you don’t manage your diet properly, you will develop. And omega-3 fatty acid deficiency, And this has been shown in a number of studies.

Omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies are fairly common among vegans who don’t know what they’re doing. All right, so now let’s go into some more detail on the benefits of getting enough EPA and DHA and your diet. I wanna really sell you on not necessarily taking a fish oil supplement, that is the easiest way to do it, but just making sure that you get enough omega3s one way or another.

So let’s start with the number one health problem. Here in the West, and that is cardiovascular health. Now, research shows that EPA and DHA promote cardiovascular health in several ways, including anti-inflammatory effects, the inhibition of platelets, triglyceride lowering effects, improvement and endothelial function, plaque stabilization and antirrhythmic effects.

It’s a pretty long list and. Interestingly, research shows that the reduction in risk of heart disease appears to be unique to EPA and dha, which is found in fish oil, for example, but not ala. Studies show that ALA doesn’t appear to have the same cardioprotective properties. Let’s talk about fish oil and your metabolism now, because studies show that it can reduce the risk of developing type two diabetes.

The exact mechanisms in play are still being investigated, but researchers believe it’s at least partially due to the fact that can improve insulin sensitivity, which of course is impaired with people who have type two diabetes. We also know that maintaining sufficient EPA and DHA intake, and again, fish oils is a great way to do that, reduces risk factors associated with a particularly nasty metabolic disease called metabolic syndrome, which is a clustering of related.

Risk factors for both cardiovascular disease and type two diabetes, including insulin resistance, hypertension, hypertriglyceridemia, decreased hdl, cholesterol levels, and obesity. No fun. Moving on down the list, let’s talk about strokes because research shows that omega-3 fatty acids are effective in helping prevent.

Strokes, and the likely mechanism for this is the ability of EPA and DHA to prevent thrombosis, to prevent blood clotting, which of course then helps prevent blood clots in blood vessels that supply the brain. All right, next, let’s talk about inflammation, because the antiinflammatory properties of EPA and DHA are very well established and can help us in many ways.

For example, we can reduce the risk of developing inflammatory and autoimmune diseases and dysfunctions, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, migraine headaches, and in people. Who have diseases and dysfunctions, like those supplementation with fish oil can decrease their activity and reduce their need for anti-inflammatory drugs.

That’s been shown in research. And another well-established benefit of omega-3 fatty acids related to inflammation is reducing joint pain and joint inflammation, and that’s why studies show. Fish oil is an effective joint supplement, and especially if you take enough fish oil can also improve your mood.

It can improve symptoms of depression, of anxiety and stress. And scientists have isolated several mechanisms that are responsible for these benefits. And the first one is what we just talked about, the reduction of inflammation, which also has positive effects in the. . And another is the influence of omega-3 fatty acids on brain derived neurotrophic factor, which is a protein that protects the health and enhances the function of the brain.

Another possible mechanism that has been identified relates to the abundance of DHA in the membranes that envelope, the brain and the spinal cord, where it plays a key role in maintaining. Integrity and the fluidity of that membrane. And it’s also possible that EPA exerts some of its mood effects by improving blood flow, which then increases the supply of nutrients to the brain, and for similar reasons that it can improve mood, fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids can also have a beneficial impact on cognitive performance, including memory, reaction, time, and attention.

We also know that EPA and DHA are beneficial in maintaining brain. In people of all ages, which is pretty cool because some ingredients sound great if you just read the abstract of a study or if you don’t pay too much attention to the details. But then if you find out, for example, that the benefits have only been demonstrated in elderly people with diseases and you are 30 or 40 years old and you are healthy, you can’t assume that.

You’re gonna experience the same benefits to any degree. You’re almost certainly not gonna receive as much of a benefit as the 80 year old who is dying of a disease, but you may not get anything from the ingredient, and that’s not the case with fish oil and brain health. Again, it benefits young people, it benefits middle aged people.

Benefits older people, and that’s been shown in a number of studies. For example, we know that adequate DHA intake in particular promotes healthy brain development in children, and we also know that omega-3 fatty acids help protect against the cognitive decline that’s associated with aging. And that’s been shown in elderly people.

Now, as far as exact mechanisms responsible, they aren’t fully understood yet, but the lowering of inflammation does appear to be a. And it’s also hypothesized that EPA and DHA can positively influence the activity of various neurotransmitters, which of course play a key role in learning mood and other important cognitive functions.

Now, I mentioned weight maintenance earlier as a benefit, and fish oil and omega threes do appear to. With that because studies have shown that when fish oil is included in a healthy lifestyle it can help reduce waste circumference and decrease fat mass. And of course, you’re not losing fat directly from the fish oil.

If it were only that easy, right? If we could just chug fish oil all day and get shredded. No, of course not. But again, studies show that providing your body with adequate omega-3 fatty acids makes it easier to lose weight, and it makes it easier to keep. The weight off, and there are several ways that it accomplishes this, at least several ways that scientists have identified, including reducing appetite, improving circulation, and thereby nutrient delivery to skeletal muscle and even body fat.

And it also can augment muscle gain, which then of course enhances fat, oxidation rates and energy expenditure.

If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world. Bigger, leaner, stronger, and thinner. Leaner, stronger, as well as the leading flexible dieting cookbook, the shredded.

Now, how does an omega-3 fatty acid affect muscle gain? Studies show that our omega-3 status affects how our muscles respond both to the food that we eat and the exercise that we do. And this makes sense when we consider the fact that omega-3 fatty acid. Enhance muscle protein synthesis, which of course is a key process that’s involved in building muscle.

And studies have shown these effects both in younger and older adults, which is why fish oil is often prescribed to mitigate the muscle loss that occurs with age. Furthermore, supplementing with fish oil may be particularly beneficial if you’re injured because studies show that it can help protect against the loss.

Muscle mass and the benefits don’t stop there actually, because EPA and DHA have been shown to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness doms, and by reducing muscle soreness, you can train more frequently and you can make better. Progress in your workouts. Studies also show that omega-3 fatty acids may improve skeletal muscle health.

And the healthier your muscle is, the better your metabolism works. And one major reason for that is a big role that. Skeletal muscle plays in the metabolism relates to how your body processes glucose, how it processes blood sugar. Studies show that skeletal muscle accounts for approximately 30% of post-meal glucose.

Disposal. So the more muscle you have and the healthier that muscle is, the better your body can maintain blood sugar levels, which of course is very important to staying healthy and to having a healthy metabolism. So those are the major benefits that we know of, and there may be more, but those are the major ones we know of.

So now let’s talk about dosing. How much do you need to take? And that depends on your goal. I mentioned earlier that if you just wanna stay healthy, a combined intake of 500 milligrams to 1.8 grams of EPA and DHA per day is sufficient. And that means that if you’re gonna take a supplement, you need to make sure you look at how much EPA and DHA is provided in every serving because it will.

From product to product. Now, if you want to reduce muscle soreness and possibly reduce joint pain, you’re gonna want to take more. You’re gonna want a combined intake. Combined intake of EPA and DHA of about three to six grams per day. Three grams is enough. In many people, but some people need to take up to six grams a day to see those types of benefits, and I don’t recommend taking more than that.

Now, as far as when to take fish oil, you can really take it whenever you want, but it’s best taken with meals because that’ll help improve the absorption and it’ll prevent the nasty fish oil. Another great thing about fish oil is there are really no side effects when it’s taken at the recommended doses.

Any sort of side effects are rare. That said, it can reduce blood clotting and so is contraindicated if you’re taking blood. Thinning medications like aspirin, warfarin, or clopidogrel. And if you’re on any of these medications or something similar, just check with your doctor before supplementing with fish oil.

And I should also mention that it shouldn’t be taken alongside fat blockers, which don’t really work anyway. But if you are dabbling with any sort of fat blocking drugs or supplements, don’t take fish oil. Now let’s talk. The type of fish oil because there are three primary forms on the market today. You have triglycerides, you have ethyl ster, and you have re stratified triglycerides.

And a triglyceride is simply a molecule that consists of three fatty acids and one molecule of glycerol. Which is just a colorless, odorless substance that’s found in fats and oils. And so the triglyceride form of fish oil is the natural unprocessed form. Now, the ethyl ster fish oil is created by processing the natural triglycerides to replace the glycerol molecules in the oil.

With ethanol, with alcohol, and this process removes impurities and it concentrates the oil, so it increases the amount of EPA and DHA in each gram of the oil, which is nice. And last in the list was the reified triglyceride. And so what that is it’s similar to the natural form, to the triglyceride form, and it’s created by using enzymes to convert the YL ster oil back into triglyceride.

Oil and doing that provides significant benefits, which I’ll talk about in a minute. Now, out of those forms, you’d probably assume that the natural one is the best, right? The triglycerides supplement is the best, and triglyceride fish oil is good. Research shows that it’s absorbed well by the body, but it also can have much higher levels of contaminants than holster and reified triglyceride oil.

Partially because of the low level of processing. Furthermore, natural triglyceride oils are generally lower in EPA and DHA per gram than the more processed and more concentrated YL Lester and reified triglyceride oils, which means that you gotta take more oil to achieve the desired results. Some people don’t mind that, but other people don’t like that.

It can get expensive in terms of not just dollars, but also calories. Now, the most popular type of. Fish oil is the Ethel Esther. That’s definitely the most popular, but it’s not because it’s the best. It’s actually just the cheapest. It’s the cheapest to produce and therefore the cheapest for consumers.

But it does have some downsides. One studies show that this form of fish oil isn’t absorbed all that well by the body. It also release. Ethanol into the body alcohol, which then needs to be processed by the liver, of course, and it’s a very small amount. It’s not something to be worried about, but research shows that in some people it can cause side effects actually, like burping and flu-like symptoms, upset stomach, strange tastes in your mouth, and even skin rash.

Alster fish oils can also go. More quickly and more easily than triglyceride oils. So a cheap olster fish oil is not bad and it can work, but it’s one of those, you get what you pay for kind of things. There is better. We’re gonna talk about that. Before we do though, I should just quickly mention that if you’re wondering how to tell if a fish oil is an ethyl ster oil, or a triglyceride, or a rero, Try glyceride.

Just look at the supplement fax panel and if it doesn’t specifically state the form of the oil, assume it’s ethyl er companies that pay a premium for the superior, more expensive. Forms the natural and the reified triglyceride forms, they almost always call it out in their marketing and at least listed on the label because it increases the attractiveness, the saleability of the product.

And so the last form that we haven’t. Discussed yet is the best, and that is the reified triglyceride oil, which is considered the gold standard of fish oil supplements currently because it has a very high bio availability. It has very high concentrations of EPA and dha. It has very low levels of toxins and pollutants.

It also is fairly resistant to oxidation, so it stays. Longer and there are none of the potential side effects associated with holster oils, which again are rare, but they should just be mentioned. There is a problem with reified triglyceride oils though, and that is they can be hard to find. Not many companies sell them because they are the most expensive to produce.

They cost 30 to 40% more than ethyl ster oil. And what that means then is if a company can produce a bottle of Ethyl Esther oil. Let’s say $6 a bottle and then sell it $30 a bottle. They are looking at probably upward of nine to $10 a bottle if they wanted to switch to a reified triglyceride. And unfortunately, many consumers don’t really know the difference between the two.

And so a bottle of fish oil. $30 that needs to now go up to $40, let’s say, because the company switched to the higher quality oil and they have to maintain their bigger margins to maintain all of their marketing and advertising spending is just gonna drive away a lot of customers. Fish oil is very elastic in that sense.

The price elasticity is, Because many people just see it as a commodity. That said, as you’ve learned in this podcast, there are some pretty significant differences between the different types of oils out there, and there are some pretty significant benefits to spending a little bit more to get a higher quality oil.

In fact, I would say that the ideal fish oil supplement would look like this. It would be sourced exclusively from low toxicity fish, and it would be a reified. Triglyceride oil that has been processed to remove impurities and toxins and to concentrate the amount of EPA and DHA in each serving and to deliver maximum bioavailability so our body can use as much of the EPA and DHA in the supplement as possible.

I also think that we, consumers should care about how the fish are being harvested. Because there are several common fishing practices that are very destructive to the population and the habitats of not just fish, but marine life in general. So for example, one is bottom trawling, which involves dragging large nets filled with rubber tires or rollers along the ocean floor, including coral reefs where fish congregate.

And as you can imagine, these rollers are very large and very damaging. To the delicate coral ridges when they pass over, and that’s why according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature, there are scars up to four kilometers long in reefs in the Northeast Atlantic and in heavily fished areas off of Southern Australia.

For example, 90% of the services. Coral used to grow are now just bear rock. Two other ways that many reefs get destroyed are cyanide and dynamite fishing. Now, cyanide stuns fish, but it doesn’t kill them, so it just makes ’em easy to collect. And it also though kills the organisms that grow on coral, which then transforms that vibrant rainforest of the sea into an a.

Desert, and then there’s the dynamite, which of course, sure it kills fish. They float to the surface, they get scooped up, but it also reduces underwater environments to rubble. And then there’s overing, which is another harmful practice, and that occurs when fish are removed from the sea faster than they can be replenished through reproduction.

The good news, though, is we don’t need to destroy. Ecosystems to get our food and get our supplements. And as consumers, we can make a difference by supporting well managed sustainable fisheries. And that’s what I’m doing in my sports nutrition company Legion. I have a fish oil supplement called Triton, and it is a reified triglyceride oil.

And it is sourced from deep water, Peruvian anchovies and sardines that are caught by fisheries approved by the friend of the sea. It’s a very concentrated oil. It contains 2,400 milligrams of EPA and DHA in each serving, and it’s also a very clean fish oil. It has been processed using enhanced molecular distillation to reduce toxins and chemicals to very low levels, to levels that meet the stringent European Pharmacopia reference.

Standards, E P R S, as well as the voluntary standards set by the Council for Responsible Nutrition. Also just refer to AS CR and the global organization for EPA and dha. Omega three also refer to AS G O E D, and if you’re wondering why we’re not conforming to any. US standards, it’s because governmental fish oil quality standards don’t exist here in the United States, so keep that in mind.

When fish oil supplements claim to be purified or free of chemicals you probably don’t want in your body like polychlorinated by fennels, right? PCBs, these types of claims, they have no regulatory definitions. Anyway, to wrap up my fish oil supplement again is called Triton. You can find it at legion and check it out.

And as far as fish oil and omega-3 intake goes, let’s just summarize everything we’ve covered here. So if you’re one of the rare people who eats a lot of. Fatty fish and ideally it would be a lot of non predatory fatty fish cuz those are gonna be the lowest in contaminants. So I’m talking about several servings of this fish per week.

Or if you’re one of the rare people who eats a lot of ala, you might not benefit from a fish oil supplement. You might not need it. But if you are like me, and like most people, that’s not the case. You don’t eat that much seafood and you don. That much fatty fish, non predatory, and you don’t eat very high amounts of vegetable or nut oils, for example.

And in that case, you can rest assured that your EPA and DH A levels are lower than you want them to be if you’re not currently taking fish oil supplement. And in that case, if you do start taking one, you can enjoy a wide variety of. Benefits ranging from reducing the risk of developing different types of disease and dysfunction.

You can decrease inflammation in the body. You can elevate mood and cognitive performance and brain health, and you can even improve your body composition. You can even get a bit more bang for your diet and workout buck. And that’s why if I could just take. One supplement. If there was only one, it would probably be a tossup between vitamin D and fish oil.

It really is that helpful. All right. That’s it for today’s episode. I hope you found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, could you please leave a quick review for the podcast on iTunes or wherever you are listening from? Because those reviews not only convince people that they should check out the show, they also increase the search visibil.

And help more people find their way to me and to the podcast and learn how to build their best body ever as well. And of course, if you wanna be notified when the next episode goes live, then simply subscribe to the podcast and whatever app you’re using to listen and you will not miss out on any of.

New stuff that I have coming and last, If you didn’t like something about the show, then definitely shoot me an email at mike muscle for and share your thoughts. Let me know how you think I could do this better. I read every email myself and I’m always looking for constructive feedback. All right, Thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.

View Complete Transcript

+ Scientific References