Make fish your holiday protein

Salmon makes an appearance on my plate at least four times a week; canned, smoked or roasted in the oven (air-fryer); I love it any way I can get it. Scott is the king of tinned fish – sardines for breakfast, anyone? Why are we always preaching the need/benefit of fatty fish? Because they are high in Omega 3’s, and one person can only eat so much chicken, am I right?  Omega 3’s are a group of fatty acids found in our food, and they are truly the ‘alpha’s’ of fat when it comes to performance, health, and recovery. Fats are an important macronutrient (one of the three numbers we prescribe daily at Fuelin) to help athletes meet their caloric demands.

Fats in our food are either saturated or unsaturated; an easy way to remember which is which – saturated fats are found primarily in animal-based foods (palm and coconut oil are the exceptions), and unsaturated foods are found primarily in plant-based foods… with fatty fish being the exception. When you break down the “Fat Family Tree” even further – you see that the two most common unsaturated fats are Omega-3 and Omega-6. Most people, Americans especially, get plenty of Omega-6 and not nearly enough Omega-3.

Omega-6’s come mostly from vegetable oils and processed foods. Whereas Omega-3’s come from fish, olive oil, chia and hemp seeds, walnuts, and flax. Another important piece of background info is the breakdown of Omega-3 into three components; ALA, EPA, and DHA. ALA is an essential fatty acid, meaning our bodies don’t make it, but the research showing Omega-3’s health and performance benefits come from the EPA and DHA. 

This article will review briefly the benefits of fish and omega-3 intake on.

1. Hear & Brain health

2. Strength

3. Endurance

4. Recovery

5. PMS

6. Body Composition

The  benefits of getting more Omega-3s. 

Heart & Brain Health

Multiple studies over the past ten years have confirmed the brain-protective benefits of Omega-3s. They help with healthy brain aging and prevent the most common neurodegenerative disorders. [2] Research scientists have used the words ‘unique and indispensable to describe the beneficial brain health effects of Omega-3’s. [3] They also help lower triglycerides, prevent cardiovascular disease, and reduce the risk for sudden death caused by cardiac arrhythmias [4]… note our discussion last year on heat health and the “widow maker” heart attack professional triathlete Tim O’Donnell suffered. The word they use in doctors' offices – is the cardioprotective effect. With Wu-Tang, it’s “Protect Yo Neck” – with Omega-3’s, it’s “Protect Yo Heart”! 


Studies have shown that Omega-3s boost muscle protein synthesis, which increases muscle mass and strength. The research suggests that Omega-3s, specifically EPA, improve protein metabolism. [6] Further, recent research demonstrates Omega-3s prevent the loss of muscle mass, meaning if you’ve sustained an injury and want to maintain muscle mass, adding Omega-3s could be a dietary tool to help maintain your body composition during healing. Improving muscular strength requires a higher training load and additional caloric intake to gain muscle mass, and Omega-3s contribute to this by adding daily calories to replenish your training calorie deficits.


While we are still learning about the mechanism – we have seen potential benefits on endurance capacity from Omega-3’s. They act as a vasodilator, increasing oxygen flow during exercise (which increases endurance). [8] Omega-3s have also been shown to help reduce muscle fatigue and improve peripheral neuromuscular function.[5] (basically, a greater ability to generate force and resist fatigue… yes, please!)


Omega-3s contain anti-inflammatory prosperities which help with muscle recovery and injury prevention. Consuming Omega-3’s in higher amounts improves the integrity of your cells and cellular function, ultimately reducing muscular damage. [7] One study even found that as little as seven days of supplementation (4g/day) decreased post-exercise muscle damage and soreness. [10] * something to remember during those extra hard training blocks leading up to Ironman. Additionally, Omega-3s have been shown to improve sleep, a crucial piece of the recovery puzzle. [11]


Omega 3’s COULD reduce the severity of PMS; definitive studies have not been reached, but there is supporting evidence that it may help. Omega 3’s have been shown to help with depression, anxiety, and stress… all of which seem heightened during our cycle, so at the very least… you’ll feel a bit better mentally. [1]

Body Composition

Lastly… if all of the above reasons weren’t enough… a study of 44 men & women found that 4g/day of fish oil supplementation for six weeks improved resting metabolic rate, body composition, and cortisol production in healthy adults. [9] BAM! 

Favourite ways to include Omega-3’s into your diet.

I know this time of year is perfect for turkey, a roasted rack of lamb, or a honey-baked holiday ham; I’m not saying you have to skip them. I’m challenging you to make at least five meals or snacks a week “fish-focused”. So how will you fit more omega-3s into your nutrition plan? Your heart, brain and body will thank you! 

Air-fryer salmon bites

rust me when I say you won’t be sorry. They come out flavorful, tender, and with a delicate crunch crust every time. I use these to top all my ‘bowl’ meals… veggies/greens +grain + protein+ a sprinkle of healthy fat. 

Canned salmon/tuna

Need a quick (and very affordable) lunch- bust out the salmon, mix with olive oil/lemon or salsa or hummus or guacamole and serve over a huge salad. 

Sardine Breakfast Scramble

I like using any leftover veggies from the night before and a few handfuls of spinach, some canned chickpeas and sundried tomatoes and a couple of eggs to whip up a scramble in under 5 min. I’ll top it with a can of sardines, capers and pickled onions. 

Smokey Avocado Toast

2 slices of sourdough bread (toasted to perfection), a few slices of heirloom tomato, radishes, microgreens, and smashed avocado topped with smoked salmon (or Herring to honour my Dutch heritage), fresh lemon and a balsamic drizzle. 

Hemp Seed Oatmeal

Choose your adventure on the oatmeal – I love Perfectly Elizabeth Banana or Blueberry lately; add in some cinnamon, fresh berries, 2 tbsp hemp seeds and almond milk… you’ll be full for hours! 

Chia Seed Pudding

Make it a holiday classic… Gingerbread flavoured. Combine chia seeds, milk, 1 tsp molasses (that’s what gives it the gingerbread flavour), cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and pecans. * pecans are a great source of ALAs 

Walnut-Flax Apple Cinnamon Smoothie

You can make this any way you like. Still, my go-to is cashew milk, vanilla protein powder, walnuts, 1 Honey crisp or another sweet apple (with the skin on), cinnamon, 2 tbsp ground flaxseeds, and ice. 


Consider supplementation if you are strictly plant-based or are having trouble meeting the recommended daily requirements. The National Academy of Medicine recommends – 1.1g females and 1.6g males per day – minimum. At Fuelin we recommend higher doses of EPA:DHA with a total combined amount of 3g. If you are on blood thinners or medication, then speak to your nutrition expert or Dr before taking this dose to ensure there is no unwarranted complications.

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The National Academy of Medicine

Fueling you,



Elizabeth Inpyn
May 6, 2024
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