by Matt Weik
When you look at NBA players, you think they are the elite of the elite in terms of health and performance. You’re at the gym every day, they have team doctors, coaches, and nutritionists on hand to help an athlete in no time. You would assume that NBA players would be told what to eat, drink, how many hours to sleep, how to improve recovery, etc. so that they can play at the highest level when they get dressed and hit the court.
Well, it seems the NBA is allowing its players and athletes to slip nutritionally through the cracks. Personally, I find this inexcusable with all the resources available to them, but then again, I’m not the GM or the team owner, so what the hell do I know right?
Here’s what I’m getting at. A recent study by a team at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute found that NBA players were using omega-3 supplements. You probably think so what? And you’d be right. Omega-3 supplements are great to use and will make sure you are getting all of the fatty acids they need on a daily basis. But here’s the downside of the study … most NBA players are below the standard omega-3 index (O3I) of 8%, which indicates general health benefits. It’s a red flag.
There have been many studies examining in depth omega-3 fatty acids in relation to college athletes playing at the Division 1 (D1) level, but little research has been done on professional athletes. This study, looking at NBA players, is the first to evaluate Omega-3 intake and index.
If anything, the results of this study of NBA players should open their eyes to all other professional sports (baseball, soccer, tennis, golf, soccer, etc.) to have their athletes screened for nutritional deficiencies as well.
Research rating on NBA players
Fish consumption and omega-3 supplement intake were rated according to the 2021 study of NBA players published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Research has been conducted on various methods of measuring omega-3 fatty acids in the bloodstream based on the omega-3 index. It measures the omega-3 content in the red blood cells and is displayed as a percentage.
Various studies that have used the omega-3 index in the past have found that people with a score of 4% or less tend to develop a risk of cardiovascular disease. A value of around 4 to 8%, the risk is relatively lower, and a value of 8% or more, there is little to no risk of cardiovascular disease.
In addition to cardiovascular diseases, it should also be noted that a higher omega-3 level can lead to significant nutritional benefits. The authors of the present study discussed omega-3 fatty acids and their relationship to less exercise-induced inflammation, better freedom of movement after exercise and less muscle pain.
One researcher was quoted as saying, “I don’t want to say that a higher omega-3 index would make you a better basketball player. But faster recovery, less muscle pain after work, and less inflammation come with it. And that’s neither expensive nor dangerous. If you want to be responsible for the health of these young people in the long term, then more omega-3 fatty acids are just a good idea. “
98% of NBA players were omega-3 deficient
The study enrolled 119 NBA players from 13 NBA teams across the country. The median age of all players was around 24 years old, and most of them were identified as being of African American origin.
Out of 119 NBA players, 61% consumed less than two servings of fish per week, while a third said they did not consume any fish at all.
About 10% of the NBA players studied took omega-3 supplements. There were 12 players taking supplements – 11 of them were taking a fish oil supplement and only one was taking an omega-3 food bar.
Here is the most important part of this entire study, and something that should shock not only the athletes but the various NBA organizations as well, and that is the fact that 98% of players have an omega-3 index score below the standard of 8% had. They are professional athletes! Where are the nutritionists and dietitians in these organizations? Why aren’t they at the forefront of their athletes in terms of their overall health? Or are they just interested in how they fare on the pitch?
The players who took omega-3 supplements had an average omega-3 index of 6%, and those who did not have an omega-3 index value of 4.99%.
The study found that the NBA players had a slightly higher omega-3 index score than division 1 college athletes, despite having similar fish consumption in terms of their diet.
NBA teams are considering an omega-3 supplement to help make up for a deficiency
William Harris, Ph.D. and founder of OmegaQuant and director of the Fatty Acid Research Institute, said NBA players’ omega-3 index scores show the dismal omega-3 scores of the entire US population – and we already know Americans have terrible diets and because of this, over 60% are overweight and over 40% are considered obese. This is not a shadow cast, these are just the facts.
Harris stated that NBA teams look forward to providing players with omega-3s through a variety of nutritional supplements and making this an integral part of their nutritional strategy for all of their NBA players