Fishy Business


Regularly eating fish as part of your diet can benefit your running, because it’s great for your heart and can improve your physical performance. – BY ESMÉ MARÉ, REGISTERED DIETICIAN

You may already know this, but it’s worth repeating that fish is high in protein, low in fat and offers a wide range of health benefits. White-fleshed fish are generally lower in fat, while oily fish such as salmon, pilchards, sardines, mackerel, herring, trout and fresh tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are considered essential, as the human body cannot make significant amounts of these nutrients, and they can also provide a variety of performance-enhancing effects for athletes of all levels.

1 Great for heart and lungs
Fish is low in saturated fat and high in omega-3, which can lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood and protect against heart disease. Eating fish regularly could also make the lungs stronger and healthier with age, while omega-3 can relieve asthma-related symptoms and improve lung functioning during and following exercise, by reducing various inflammatory mediators.

2 Clearing blood vessels
Eating fish can significantly lower blood pressure through the vasodilation of blood vessels, improving blood circulation and preventing blood clots. This will ensure that hard working muscles have a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood and nutrients needed for performance and recovery.

3 Improves protein synthesis
Omega-3 fatty acids combined with an anabolic stimulus such as running can improve protein synthesis and lean body mass function and quality.

4 Contains essential nutrients
Fish provide us with iodine needed for optimal thyroid functioning, selenium that aids in the production of enzymes to prevent cancer, plus zinc, potassium and vitamins A and D.

5 Increases muscle strength and performance
Omega-3 fatty acids help to improve muscular strength, physical performance and functional capacity.

6 Reduces muscle damage and soreness
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage, delayed-onset muscle soreness and loss of physical function, which otherwise can have a significant effect on adaptation to training.

7 Strengthens the immune system
Moderate exercise boosts the immune system, but excessive exercise may place stress on the body and weaken the immune system. Omega-3 fatty acids help improve the body’s reaction to exercise-induced stress, with potential benefits for the immune system.

8 Strengthens bones and joint functioning
Research reveals that omega-3 fatty acids and exercise may work synergistically to improve bone health, reduce the risk of hip fractures and promote a higher bone mineral density. A regular intake of fish can relieve the symptoms experienced with rheumatoid arthritis and could also prevent osteoarthritis.

It’s important to obtain omega-3 fatty acids from natural food such as oily fish. Dietary supplements such as fish oil capsules might be an option if your diet is low in food sources containing omega-3 fatty acids, but should not replace a healthy diet. If you eat fish to gain the heart-healthy benefits of its omega-3 fatty acids, baked or boiled fish is better than fried, salted or dried.

Image: Fotolia