Maid’s Day Off: The Great Fish Oil Debate

On a mountain top deep in the Rockies; trails scaled, rocks climbed, the class of one sits in front of the master. iPad on the movie channels, iPhone up to ear, the student is multi-tasking anxiety and the thrill of such a prime lesson in a social way . . . talking, laughing, tweeting, but definitely not paying attention.

Who feeds the fish when the maid isn't near?

Who feeds the fish when the maid isn’t near?

The altitude creates a mood of giddiness for the unprepared; or is it just a product of Colorado’s smokey breeze?

The good Professor, mild-mannered but brilliant Jeff Kildahl, Ph.D., hesitates momentarily before his patience suddenly morphs.  Like liquid silver in “The Terminator,” Sister Mary Elephant of Cheech & Chong’s famed memory of Catholic Schools emerges. Her words are his:

“Good morning, class. Good morning, claasss! Claaasss? Claaassss!! SHUT UP!!! Thank you. As you know your regular teacher Sister Rosetta Stone is on a small vacation . . .” as the rant continues.

Now with my full attention, winds quickly calm as the sun frames his form in some larger, magnified way; his words seem stronger, deep with more import as the master intones in his melodic way . . .

“The food you eat should nourish your body not deplete it. This principle is inherent to your trail running, snowshoeing and your wellness. The subject of nutrition is in a paralyzing state of analytical mayhem. This is unfortunate and unnecessary.”

I ask, analytical mayhem?

“Yes, analytical mayhem, plebian. Sports performance and wellness have long been viewed as a symbiotic relationship.  Scientists have researched to exhaustion the role of almost every imaginable nutritive substance and its relationship to health and sport.  Rarely has the wellness, longevity, or quality of life for the athlete or citizen been the impetus for such fatiguing effort. It seems more about hype and . . . (raising my hand) yes, what is your question?”

Julie May, Wisconsin, WA Photographer Athlete

Julie May, Wisconsin, WA Photographer Athlete

What about Wilderness Athlete? They’re not one of those big promotional confabs. His stare seers; I understand his meaning . . . they aren’t one of them.

The master continues, “Of course not; they are the jewel in a trunk of costume jewelry. Think: buyer beware;” I wish I’d thought of that.

“Attempts to advance our foods via chemistry and science are geared toward proving the value of a given nutrient. This approach is backward.

We erroneously examine individual nutrients to attain wellness and boost sport performance when we should simply look to primary source, whole foods. Optimum snowshoeing performance and wellness will result when negative effects have been eliminated from the diet versus simply adding more nutrients individually.

The paths to wellness and sport performance need not be muddled or complicated. Theoretical understanding of nutrition as a science is only a precursor to practical application. The latter requires heightened awareness and fierce discipline.”

Interrupting this time, I ask, fierce discipline? Sighing upon realizing his task ahead, the seer responds, “Yes, fierce discipline.”

Continuing his thoughts, “Mindful daily food choices will make the difference between mere participation and excellence in your endurance endeavors; between life and premature death due to poor dietary practices.”

Gluten free, 2 capsules deliver 700 mg of Omega 3

Gluten free, 2 capsules deliver 700 mg of Omega 3

Sensing a key moment in his teaching, I straighten up to pay attention, his
voice ascending, “Appropriate nutritive choices will define your trail running and snowshoeing experiences–and your life–as either effort or struggle.”

He paused to let that soak in–in my case, longer than normal–before continuing. “Nutrition plays a profound role in every aspect of your life–including your endurance sports endeavors. The impact of your nutritional choices begins at the cellular level. Regular consumption of nutrient-dense, primary source, whole foods facilitates cellular regeneration. Every aspect of health and vitality is reliant upon the process. This process is challenging yet necessary.

Kristy Titus maintains fitness as a Wilderness Athlete expert

Kristy Titus maintains fitness as a Wilderness Athlete expert

Technology has infiltrated both health and sport to the point where analysis and dissection of the laws of nature and physics have comprised awareness. The gap between an one’s desire to achieve a healthful goal and the commitment to make the requisite personal changes to attain said goal has become wider and deeper.

There are no shortcuts or quick fixes.

Technology, science, and government subsidies are not evil. The outcome of each innocuous element lies in direct accordance to its useful or harmful application. We have paid the price for our curiosity in realms yet to be appreciated.”

The Great Fish Oil Debate

“Fish oil is the latest isolated supplement rage simply for the sake of getting the essential fatty acid DHA. Fish are among the most polluted organisms.

Consuming fish oil in a capsule has simply concentrated exponentially your exposure to PCBs, dioxin, mercury, organochlorines, pesticides and DDT. Despite the molecular distillation process, fish oil and other isolated supplement products have been found to contain high levels of these compounds, heavy metals like lead, arsenic and mercury similar toxins ”

But, Prof K, aren’t you condemning all fish? Isn’t that like fish discrimination? Now right here on my iPad–turning it so he can read these words–Harvard’s Medical School Family Guide explains, “Mercury accumulates in the food chain, so some of the heaviest concentrations are found in some of the most desirable from the standpoint of fish-oil consumption. Fortunately, (fish oil) supplements haven’t been implicated as a source of mercury exposure.”

The title "Rocky Mountain High" reflects Denver's "sense of peace" he found in the Rockies.

The title “Rocky Mountain High” reflects Denver’s “sense of peace” he found in the Rockies.

The Master concedes, “Nicely done, student,” cracking me alongside the head with his staff; I wondered why he had that laying there.

Continuing, he turns to refer to his chart. “Obtain your DHA by consuming plant sources of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) like flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, walnuts and soybeans. Take microalgae formulas–a safer option than fish oil–if your blood test remains conclusive of a deficiency.”

Raising my hand even higher now–not John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High, but way up–I blurt, interrupting, now here’s more from Harvard; look what I found:

“Flaxseed oil is being heavily promoted as an alternative to fish oil. The health benefits of fish oil are believed to derive principally from two omega-3 fats, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Flaxseed oil contains a third, plant-based omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Other foods, especially walnuts, and oils, like canola and soybean, contain ALA. But at about 7 grams per tablespoon, flaxseed oil is by far the richest source.”

I glance up to see the master listening intently, pleased the student is grasping and expanding his lesson.

I continue to read, “The main problem with ALA is that to have the good effects attributed to omega-3s, it must be converted into EPA and DHA. As a result, only a small fraction of it has omega-3’s effects . So in terms of omega-3 power, a tablespoon of flaxseed oil is worth about 700 milligrams of EPA and DHA. That’s still more than the 300 mg of EPA and DHA in many 1-gram fish oil capsules, but far less than what the 7 grams listed on the label might imply.”

Master, doesn’t that mean if I don’t care to swallow a tablespoon of flaxseed oil, I can just ingest two fish oil capsules?

And in that breakthrough, a deeper discovery seeps through:

Think about it. Life is not a lab, for sure; test tubes and storage bottles on scientist’s shelves don’t reflect those challenges humans meet daily. Days tend to be organized chaos, full of multiple-career families, obligations, requirements, friends that transcend the popular notion of “Leave It To Beaver” tranquility.

Even the Cleaver family had trouble getting time to look at photo albums

Even the Cleaver family had trouble getting time to look at photo albums

Consider children . . . talk about complexity! In the modern world of team sports, music lessons, advanced courses of learning, teacher conferences, on and on and on . . . parents become chauffeurs of sorts; lovingly doing it, but driving nonetheless. Feeding becomes not so much a matter of choosing convenience food, but of getting food, period.Schedules are designed that would match those of a NASA mission in complexity: “Right, you pick him up from school, then drive to there, then I’ll come from work, pick that one up while you go way over there for the other one; oh, we forget number three or is it four? Well, we’ll get her if when you swing in to get the gas and . . . . ”

Where is the time to cook healthy, hearty meals on a consistent, daily basis–not that a family doesn’t want to–but part of the trick of life is surviving the game as it plays out in front, too. The reality of what works vs. the perfect ideal supersedes our fantasy of perfection. Fish oil supplementation fills in those blank spaces.

Maybe the family needs a maid, then, just solve it that way. Oh, sure, there’s plenty of cash lying around for that, no problem; right? Wrong! Budgets are tighter than a fiddler’s string; ever pay for hockey uniforms or figure skater’s costumes? Lessons?  Ice time? Those who do, and this goes for the myriad of sports out there, know they cost a lot. An axiom of life, kids grow so those costs continue to roll over again and again.

Tom Cruise about to discover Maid's Day Off in Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut

Tom Cruise about to discover Maid’s Day Off in Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut

In Stanley Kubrick’s misunderstood classic “Eyes Wide Shut,” note a scene where the Tom Cruise character, Dr. Bill Harford, strolls a nighttime New York City street. Approached by a beautiful young woman to join her inside, he accepts. As they step into her tiny kitchenette leading to a small bedroom, she moves unwashed pots and skillets from the cramped table, self-consciously placing them in the deep-basin sink with an off-hand remark fitting family predicaments: “Maid’s day off!” meaning there is no maid, there is no time to pretend to be one.In a perfect world ideal nutritional meals would be served like those in old shows; everyone sitting down to a full dinner while consuming every nutrient the body needs everyday from produce picked that day in the garden. For those who can enjoy that, then supplements of any nature excepting vitamin D, would not likely be needed.

For everyone else, one can patch the holes by not just choosing a supplement, but choosing the right source of a supplement like fish oil. Choosing the lowest common denominator here will possibly lead to some of the dangers Kildahl references. That is why quality is key such as the origin and type of fish that supply the oil for the little capsule.

Wilderness Athlete Performance Products has your back. Their famed Formulator, unseen by human eyes, emerging from the deep mountain caverns of research and thought somewhere in the Arizona desert mountains, beams a secret message to me. Scrolling, I read aloud the pronouncement:

Fish oils have virtually no mercury compared to whole fish as the mercury binds to the protein fraction and not the oils. PCB and dioxin-like PCBs, if present, are removed through the distillation process though trace amounts remain. These amounts are far, far less than what one consumes in a serving of fish. It is certain that the same is true of plant source omega-3s as the plants are sprayed with a variety of insecticides and fungicides. Oils utilized for Wilderness Athlete capsules are tested for contaminants and reported on a “Certificate of Analysis(CA).”

Mackeral: socking salmon in the eye for Omega3 quantities

Mackerel: socking salmon in the eye for Omega3 quantities

A review of their CA reflects that Wilderness Athlete fish oil capsules are primarily derived from wild North Atlantic mackerel, a virtual factory of Omega 3s with some 100 percent more than, say, salmon. Further, as a strong source of Phosphatidylserine, mackerel is a leading candidate to alleviate circumstances of ADHD and Alzheimer’s.The Master, tiring now of having such a pupil in his space, recaps, “We are designed to ingest our sustenance from the plentiful offerings by Mother Nature, not nutrients created in the lab.

Primary source, whole foods offer a synergistic blend of complementary, purpose-driven and results-oriented nutrients designed to propel your endurance sports performance and your wellness because of your diet, not in spite of it.

Micronutrient density is the true measure of food value. Micronutrients represent the foundation of mindful dietary choices even for non-athletes. Endurance athletes habitually fixate on macronutrient ratios and isolated supplements when micronutrients should be the focus. Endurance athletes must use food to improve performance, not simply eat it.”

Payge McMahon WA Athlete

Payge McMahon WA Athlete

The determining element of supplementing with Wilderness Athlete’s fish oil Omega 3 capsules is one’s ability to get on a daily basis nutrition-dense meals while contending with modern schedules; just becoming lazy and not preparing those meals (Maid’s Day off!) should not be the consideration, but it will. The point is, WA fish oil is the real deal for contemporary families.Wilderness Athlete’s renown Coach Mark Paulsen remarks, “Don’t underestimate how important (Wilderness Athlete) supplements are for improving and healing your body.” His definition is not only fish oil capsule related, but includes, for example, their Meal Replacement/Recovery Shake.

Whether it is conditioning for sport, health or just because one prefers to look good, exercise and strength are keys to retain fitness and muscles. Paulsen summarizes the whole process with “Bleed it, feed it, rest it,” where Bleed it” refers to working out with enough intensity that you feel physically whooped when you’re done. “Feed it” relates to giving your body the best chance to get stronger by eating the best choices and supplementing properly. “Rest it” obviously denotes the importance of quality downtime, allowing the body the sleep and rest it needs to repair itself.

Even on “Maid’s day off .”

Connect with:

Jeff Kildahl Ph.D,

Phillip Gary Smith,

About the author

Jeff Kildahl, Ph.D and Phillip Gary Smith

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