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Athlete’s Guide to Omega-3 Supplements

Athlete's Guide to Omega-3 Supplements

SupplementsSports NutritionVeganWellness

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, meaning that our bodies cannot produce these independently and need to be consumed through the diet. Research has shown omega-3s to be especially beneficial for brain and heart health, and may be beneficial for athletes due to their role in managing inflammation.

The three primary types of omega-3s are:

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)

DHA (docosahexaenoic)

ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)

EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna. ALA is the plant-form of omega-3s which can be found in walnuts, chia seeds, ground flaxseed, and flaxseed oil. ALA can be converted to EPA and DHA in the body, but has a poor conversion rate so larger amounts of ALA are needed to meet daily needs.

The current recommended intake for ALA is 1.6 g for men and 1.1 g for women. Competitive athletes may require larger amounts of omega-3s, potentially up to 2-4 grams per day. A recent study examined the omega-3 status and intake of NCAA division I athletes and found that only 6% of athletes met the recommended intake for omega-3s. Does this mean that every athlete should be supplementing with omega-3’s? Not necessarily, but a supplement can be beneficial for athletes who may struggle to meet their needs through food sources.

Omega-3 supplements on the market vary widely due to the source, content, and the form provided. Omega-3 supplements are most commonly sourced from fish, krill, or algae. Omega-3s may be provided in multiple forms including triglycerides, ethyl esters, free fatty acids (FFA), re-esterified triglycerides, and phospholipids. Ethyl esters are the common form provided in fish oil supplements, but can also be triglycerides, phospholipids, or free fatty acids. Ethyl esters have been found to have slightly lower bioavailability than other forms, but all forms can assist in increasing plasma EPA and DHA. Plant-based alternatives (algae oil) are typically in triglyceride form. 

In this review, we critically evaluate each product using the criteria listed below to determine which we would recommend to our athletes. As mentioned above, not every athlete needs to be supplementing with omega-3s. Work with a sports dietitian to determine if an omega-3 supplement is right for you. To schedule a nutrition consultation with us, click here.

Review Criteria

  • Is it NSF certified for sport or Informed-Sport?

  • Omega-3 content.

  • Source and bioavailability. 

  • Cost per serving.

  • Would we recommend this product?

As noted in our multivitamin review, the FDA does not regulate supplements so caution must be taken when using them. Athletes should only use products that go through third party certification, such as NSF Certified for Sport or Informed-Sport. These certifications ensure that what’s listed on the label is actually in the product and that the athlete isn’t consuming any banned substances. 6 out of 9 supplements in this review hold third-party certification. This review was not sponsored by any brands mentioned.


Klean Athlete Omega

Is it NSF certified or Informed-sport? Yes, it is NSF Certified for Sport.

Omega-3 Content. This product contains 1250 mg marine triglyceride concentrate which provides 500 mg EPA and 250 mg DHA. 

Source and Bioavailability. 1250 mg marine triglyceride concentrate from anchovies and sardines. Concentrates typically provide a higher level of EPA/DHA than crude fish oil. 

Cost. $35.40 for 60 softgels which comes to $0.59 per serving.

Would we recommend this product? Yes, we would recommend this product for our athletes. 

 

Momentous Omega-3

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed-Sport? Yes, it is NSF Certified for Sport.

Omega-3 content. This product provides 750 mg of both EPA and DHA.

Source and bioavailability. Fish oil (Alaska Pollock) in primarily triglyceride form.  

Cost. $38.00 for 30 servings coming to $1.26 per serving.

Would we recommend this product? Yes, this product is NSF Certified for Sport and provides an adequate amount of EPA/DHA, however, it is one of the more expensive products included in this review.

 

Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega-D3 Sport

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed-Sport? Yes, it is NSF Certified for Sport.

Omega-3 content. This product contains 1480 mg total of omega-3 with 850 mg of EPA, and 425 mg of DHA.

Source and bioavailability. Fish oil (anchovies and sardines) in triglyceride form.

Cost. $32.95 for 30 servings for $1.09 per serving.

Would we recommend this product? Yes, we would recommend this product for our athletes. It also provides the daily recommended intake for vitamin D. 

Nordic Naturals Ultimate 2x

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed-Sport? Yes, it is NSF Certified for Sport.

Omega-3 content. This product contains 1125 mg of EPA and 875 mg of DHA.

Source and bioavailability. Fish oil (anchovies and sardines) in triglyceride form.

Cost. $52.95 for 30 servings for $1.76 per serving.

Would we recommend this product? Yes, we would recommend this product for our athletes. This product provides the largest amount of EPA/DHA of all products included in this review, but is also the most expensive product reviewed.

 

Thorne Super EPA

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed-Sport? Yes, it is NSF Certified for Sport

Omega-3 content. This product provides 425 mg of EPA and 270 mg of DHA.

Source and bioavailability. From fish oil, but does not specify form. 

Cost. $37 for 90 servings for $0.41 per serving. *Note there are two options and only one is NSF Certified for Sport. 

Would we recommend this product? Yes, this would be a good option for athletes who are looking to complement the omega-3 products already present in their diet based on third party testing. However, we’d like more information on source and form. 

Vital Choice Omega-3 Therapy

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed-Sport? Yes.

Omega-3 content. This product contains 1680 of Wild Alaskan Pollock Oil that provides 670 mg EPA, and 340 mg DHA.

Source and bioavailability. Triglyceride-based wild Alaskan pollock oil.

Cost. $69.00 for 90 servings which comes to $0.76 per serving.

Would we recommend this product? Yes, this would be a good product for athletes who are looking to complement the omega-3 products already present in their diet. 

Nordic Naturals Algae Omega

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed-Sport? No.

Omega-3 content. 715 mg total omega-3’s with 195mg EPA, and 390mg DHA

Source and bioavailability. Triglyceride-based algae oil.

Cost. $29.95 for 30 servings which comes to $0.99 per serving.

Would we recommend this product? We would not recommend this product for drug-tested athletes. However, this would be a great option for vegans/vegetarians and who do not require the third party certification.

Sunwarrior Omega-3 Vegan DHA & EPA

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed-Sport? No.

Omega-3 content. This product contains 627 total omega-3’s with 113 mg EPA and 500 mg DHA.

Source and bioavailability. Algae Oil containing phospholipids. 

Cost. $34.95 for 30 servings which comes to $1.17 per serving.

Would we recommend this product? We would not recommend this product for drug-tested athletes. However, this would be a great option for vegans/vegetarians and who do not require the third party certification.

Garden of Life Vegan DHA

Is it NSF Certified for Sport or Informed-Sport? No.

Omega-3 content. This product contains 400 mg of DHA. 

Source and bioavailability. This product is sourced from algae oil and does not specify the form but algae oils typically are triglyceride-based.

Cost. Regularly $27.99 for 30 servings which comes to $0.93 per serving. 

Would we recommend this product? We would not recommend this product for drug-tested athletes. However, this would be a good option for vegans/vegetarians and who do not require the third party certification. Note that this product does not contain any EPA, so may be a better option for individuals who also consume plant-based omega-3’s like chia seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts.

Article written by Dana Norris, MS, RD

omega-3sathletesSupplements
Angie Asche

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