In this post we will have a look at Omega-3. This is a fatty acids that we hypothesize can enhance reaction time and speed for athletes. We will start from the beginning and go through the basics of this fat and function in the body.
Poly unsaturated fats contains several (poly) double bonds. These bonds makes the fatty acid bent instead of straight as a saturated fat. You can compare it with matches that you use to make a fire. Straight once are saturated acids with a polar “head”. If you break it, but it is still connected as one piece, you have a bent stick that looks like a fatty acid with a double bond. It bends the fatty acid. Also it is a weak point for attack from radicals and other reactive compounds. Therefor unsaturated fats need more protection of antioxidants to not be attacked and broken into pieces. This is true both inside and outside the body. The laws of physics and chemistry are universal (at least as long as we don’t approach the speed of light).
Function of omega-3
All cells in the body (and bacteria also for that matter) have a cell membrane that surrounds the cell. Water can pass in and out of the cell membrane but most other molecules cannot. They need to be transported through a door that is open. If you think of the matches and put several of them next to each other with the head pointing in the same direction (they are parallel) you have the structure of a cell wall. They are tightly stacked together just as penguins in the arctic stands next to each other. If we introduce the bent match that was partly broken it cannot be put in as tight as a straight fatty acid. There will be some space between the matches (fatty acids) if some of them are bend. It is this space that the cell uses to build doors (transporter protein) that lets in and out molecules. Different doors are used for different molecules even though some share the same gate. These transporters (doors) in and out of the cell are essential. Long chain Omega 3 are used for this (DHA/EPA). They are called long chain because they are longer than a “regular” fatty acids (regular = 18 carbons). Since they are bend they need to be longer to reach to the other side of the cell membrane. Shorter bent fatty acids like ALA (alpha linolenic acid, an omega-3 found in plants) cannot be used in the same way as long chain omega-3.
Omega-3 are especially important for
– Reaction time / Cognitive
– Muscle mass and Strength