Grilled salmon fillet with spinach, cucumber, tomato and avocado salad on a white wooden table.

Nutrition: Some Fishy Business

Having fish as part of your regular diet can be quite a benefit to runners: It’s great for your heart and can improve physical performance, so don’t underestimate the power of the nutrients from the sea! – BY ESMÉ MARÉ, R.D. AT CHRISTINE PETERS AND ASSOCIATES

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. Research has shown that consuming oily fish at least twice a week will significantly benefit our bodies, and Omega 3 fatty acids can also provide us with 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 has the ability to lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood and to protect the heart from disease. Eating fish regularly could make the lungs stronger and healthier with age, while Omega 3 can relieve asthma-related symptoms and may also 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 found in fish 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
    Exercise-induced muscle damage from vigorous exercise, delayed-onset muscle soreness and loss of physical function can have a significant effect on adaptations to training. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce this inflammation and muscle soreness, therefore aiding in recovery.

  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.

  9. Improves cognitive functioning
    Omega 3 fatty acids may improve athletic performance by enhancing concentration and improving cognitive functioning.

  10. Good for the gut
    A diet rich in fish oils can help to protect against serious inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and help slow down the progression of these diseases in some individuals.

  11. Improves brainpower
    People who eat plenty of seafood are less likely to suffer from depression, dementia and memory problems later in life. Omega 3 fatty acids have also been linked to improvements in children’s concentration, reading skills, behaviour and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Expert Tip
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.


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