When we think about “getting healthy”, most people initially focus on their physical appearance to either lose weight or build muscle. However, if what you truly want is to transform your health, you must go beyond the physical. You need to combine those physical efforts with other factors that often don’t get the attention they deserve. The key is to take a holistic approach to your health, which includes coming up with a plan to implement important and basic changes in your daily habits that combine actions that result in both external and internal positive health changes.
One factor that can be a key part of supporting good health, especially as we age, are the addition of supplements. While many people do not like the idea of taking vitamins and minerals every day, unless you are one of the few who focuses on your diet to make sure you eat a large and varied amount of food to meet your daily vitamin and mineral needs, supplements can make a significant, positive difference in your overall health. For example, vitamin D and fish oil can assist in making larger gains in your weight training results. In addition, these supplements support cognitive brain function, especially when taken together.
Fish Oil: A Powerful Ally in Strength Building
Weight training is well-known for building muscle and ramping up strength. In the fitness world, training for hypertrophy – enlarging your muscle fibers to improve your body’s ability to produce force – is often considered the gold standard when trying to build lean muscle mass. While the benefits of adequate protein intake when weight training are clear, you might be surprised to learn that fish oil can also play a role in boosting your strength.
In a recent eye-opening study, scientists looked at how taking omega-3-rich fish oil supplements can affect strength. They followed 28 young, fit adults as they went through a 10-week strength training program. Half of them took 4.5 grams of fish oil every day for 10 weeks and the other half took a placebo.
The scientists took blood tests at the beginning and end of the study to establish a baseline for omega-3 levels and measure changes in the participants’ labs. They also used a simple test called the “one rep max” (more lovingly known as a 1RM) to measure the max weight each person could lift for a single repetition. Then they compared this to each person’s body weight to get a fuller picture of their overall strength.
Here’s what they found: The people who took fish oil saw their omega-3 levels shoot up by a staggering 109% while the placebo group saw barely any change. Both groups managed to grow more muscle and lose some body fat, but the fish oil group got stronger.
For example, in the bench press, those who took fish oil got about 18% stronger while the placebo group still saw an increase, but it was significantly lower at just 10%. When they tested squats, the fish oil group led the way with a 28.8% jump in strength compared to the placebo group’s 20.5% gain. Even more, those taking fish oil had better results when their strength gains were compared to their own body weight.
Now you might be asking, “Is this just for young people who are already fit?” Not at all. The benefits of omega-3s go beyond age and can actually have added benefits for those looking to get and stay fit over fifty. In addition to strength gains, taking fish oil can be a game-changer for joint stiffness, inflammation, and regulation of triglycerides. Needless to say, getting adequate omega-3 can help give you the edge you need to maintain an active lifestyle. As you get stronger, you will be able to lift more and potentially achieve a greater range of motion, which circles back to growing even more muscle and sometimes activating muscles you didn’t even know you had. It’s a fantastic cycle that helps you stay active and healthy, no matter your age.
Vitamin D for Healthy Brain Function
While physical strength is a great goal to have when looking to stay healthy as you age, healthy brain function is often overlooked and under-supported. Over time, natural changes in brain function often progress silently, leading to cognitive issues like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, but just because it happens naturally does not mean that all hope is lost. A new study shows that taking а vitamin D supplement can improve your mental health and cognitive performance, making it one of the key nutrients for brain health.
The participants in this study, all 65 or older and experiencing minor memory issues, were followed for a year during which some were given vitamin D while others received a placebo. When the results rolled in, those taking vitamin D showed promising improvements in various cognitive tests, ranging from memory and vocabulary to spatial understanding and problem-solving.
This study does more than just highlight the benefits of vitamin D for cognitive health; it invites us to reconsider our approach to aging and well-being overall. It has also often been found that vitamin D is most bioavailable when taken with a low to moderate amount of fat so taking your fish oil supplement at the same time can potentially amplify the benefits. After all, who doesn’t want to maximize their health? Getting and staying fit over 50, strong and healthy is about comprehensive care for both your body and your brain. As with anything, balance is key to guiding you toward a happy healthy, happy life at any age.
When it comes to health, it’s not just the obvious markers like a fit physical appearance that deserve attention. Supporting your body’s systems by adding in some backstage players like omega-3 and vitamin D can play a huge role in boosting our overall well-being. If you haven’t tried these supplements yet, it might be worth giving them a try.
Research backs it up: staying active and proper nutrition are the keys to optimal health which includes taking supplements to support our micronutrient needs. So, as we keep striving for better health, let’s chase beyond what we can see and put in the work to achieve strong bodies and strong minds.