One research-proven compound has been completely overlooked by all the “bodybuilding experts”. This side-effect-free, inexpensive compound is the only non-pharmaceutical agent shown to de-activate the major pathway of muscle loss.

If you haven’t heard of it already, let me introduce you to EPA – the bio-active form of omega-3 that could add real muscle to your physique.

The background info’ – bringing you up to speed . . .

Omega-3s form vital components within the phospholipid membrane of every muscle cell. All cells, particularly muscle need oxygen and other nutrients to function. Omega-3’s become built-in to the cell membrane structure to enhance insulin function and the transportation of essential nutrients into cells[1]. Muscle cell membranes without omega-3s would be like a house without windows or doors—not much gets in or out. This poor transportation of nutrients in and out of cells means poor performance at the cellular level. Most people, including athletes are deficient in omega-3 [2].

There are three types of omega-3 fats, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and alpha-linolenic acid. EPA and DHA are the “marine omega-3s” found in fish [3]. Alpha-linolenic acid is found mainly in plant oils and flaxseeds [4].

Whereas alpha-linolenic acid is the backbone from which other omega-3s are synthesized. EPA and DHA are the bioactive forms that are found in all cold water fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel, and sardines) and their health benefits to bodybuilders can not be underestimated.

Unique benefits . . .

EPA and DHA are essential for proper brain function. They also work within muscle cell membranes to enhance insulin’s ability to transport nutrients [2]. Although the body can and does make both of these compounds from the alpha-linolenic acid skeleton, this enzyme driven process is shown to decline with age. Athletes over 30 years of age are at a high risk of not getting enough EPA and DHA to meet the demands of training.

Both DHA and EPA form key aspects of membrane structures that enhance cell permeability in the brain, retina (eyes) and muscle. In particular, EPA’s powerful anti-inflammatory properties enhance heart and artery function. EPA appears to help restore damaged or weakened heart function and avoid the chaotic arrhythmias that can cause them to stop beating altogether. In essence, EPA makes the heart function efficiently so it will last longer [3].

See Also:
Creatine Stimulates Muscle Growth by Triggering Satellite Cell Formation

Powerful muscle anti-catabolic . . .

Here’s some important research on EPA that’s has been overlooked by the bodybuilding experts. EPA is a powerful anti-catabolic, it effectively down-regulates the major molecular pathway of muscle breakdown (catabolism) [6-9]. This capacity to de-activate the major molecular pathway of muscle breakdown is unique to EPA. In fact, EPA is the only nutrient shown to exert this effect in humans. The mechanism involves the inhibition of the ubiquitin-proteasome proteolytic pathway – the most prominent pathway that leads to muscle loss [6]. EPA appears to block this pathway via a lipoxygenase 20S subunit metabolite signal transducer [7]. You don’t need to concern yourself with the biochemical technicalities. Just remember that these powerful anti-catabolic effects are unique to EPA, and these benefits were obtained by supplementing the diet with 2-grams of this omega-3, per day [8].

In conditions that cause muscle wasting (cancer, HIV and severe infection), the ubiquitin-proteasome proteolytic pathway is “up-regulated” (activated). However, animal research shows that this pathway is also active during periods of calorie restriction—competitive bodybuilders know all about trying to preserve muscle while restricting calories. Supplementation with EPA each day may serve to down regulate this key pathway that leads to muscle loss, particularly when you’re attempting to get lean.

Fish oil won’t do it…

EPA is the only nutrient known to reduce the activity of the prominent molecular pathway responsible for protein breakdown and loss of muscle tissue. Therefore, you’d be forgiven for thinking that mega-dosing on fish oil capsules would meet your EPA demands and solve a lot of problems. Unfortunately, taking fish oil capsules probably won’t be an effective way of increasing the concentration of EPA in the diet. Simply because fish oil supplements provide equivalent amounts of both EPA and DHA. Therefore, regardless of how many capsules you take, fish oil will do nothing to increase the ratio of EPA in the diet.

1. J. Nutrition 128: 427S, 1998.
2. Biomed Pharmacother 56(8):365-79, 2002
3. Eur J Clin Nutr. 57 Suppl 1:S22-5, 2003.
4. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care 6: 413-419, 2003
5. J. Nutrition 132: 3508S-3512S, 2002.
6. Nutr Cancer 40 (2):118-24, 2001
7. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 285:598-602, 2001
8. J. Nutrition 17:751-755, 2001.
9. Cancer Res 61:3604-3609, 2001.

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The Best Omega-3s for Bodybuilders and Why Virtually All Fish Oil Supplements Don’t Measure Up

by Paul Cribb Ph.D. CSCS. time to read: 4 min