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Expert Guides

The Essentials of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

Publish date: 20/07/2013

By popular beliefs fats are something you need to stay away from. However like many popular beliefs this one also is misdirected. Not all fats are bad and our body needs fat to function normally. Moreover there are certain fats that actually help in building muscles. This article talks about these fats which go by the name of Essential Fatty Acids of EFAs.

What are EFAs

They are called essential because the body cannot produce these on its own and they must be taken in the form of food or supplements. Basically there are two kinds of EFAs, viz. omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids. One more kind called omega 9 fatty acids are also important but not essential since the body can produce some amounts of it. However, it can only do so when the other two kinds are present in the system.

Omega 3 fatty acids include:

  • Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
  • Alpha Linolenic Acid (LNA)

Out of these three LNA can be converted to both DHA and EPA. Hence LNA assumes the most important role here, though ERPAs and DHA are also essential to the body.

Omega-6 fatty acids include:

  • Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA)
  • Linoleic Acid (LA)
  • Dihomogamma Linoleic Acid (DGLA)
  • Arachidonic Acid (AA)

Out of these four, LA can be converted into the other three varieties. You need to take omega3 and omega 6 fatty acids in a ratio that should range between 4:1 and 3:1 however a lot of the people and even serious weight trainers skew up this ratio, which can result in low growth, slower fat reduction and give rise to various health issues.

How do EFAs Help in Muscle Growth And Fat Loss

EFAs undergo metabolism inside the body to form certain other components leukotrienes, prostaglandins, and thromboxanes. All of these deliver important functions in the body and particularly prostaglandins help in muscle mass increase by delivering the following functions:

  • Enhance muscle growth
  • Increase synthesis and secretion of growth hormones
  • Maintaining required testosterone levels in the body
  • Enhancing insulin sensitivity

EFAs also help with fat burning and metabolism by enhancing lipolysis or breaking down of body fat and lowering lipogenesis or body fat formation. EFAs have many more beneficial functions like strengthening immunity, enhancing stamina, speeding up muscle recovery, improving sleep and skin, decreasing inflammation and enhancing healing of injuries

How Much EFAs do You Need to Take

Acceptable doses for men and women are 1.6 grams and 1.1 grams per respectively for omega 3 fatty acids, though studies have indicated that higher levels may be beneficial too. Experts recommend that for muscle mass gain and fat loss benefits the following doses of omega3 and omega 6 fatty acids can be considered:


  • Men- 3-3.5 grams per day
  • Women - 2.5-3 grams per day


  • Men - 9-14 grams per day
  • Women - 7.5-12 grams per day

What are Some Good Sources of EFAs

EFAs can be taken both in the form of food and supplements. Some food rich in omega 3 fatty acid are fish oil, flaxseed oil, walnuts, avocados, salmons, etc. some good sources of omega 6 fatty acid are Flaxseed oil, Olives, Olive oil, Grape seed oil, Pistachio nuts, etc.

EFA supplements are helpful in a way that while supplying the required doses of fatty acids, they can easily combine both in the required ratio and you are not required to get your doses of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids from separate sources. EFA blends, Fish oil, flaxseed oil, etc are available as supplement in both oil and capsule form. It is arguably easier to go with the capsules since some people don’t like the taste of the oil. However the oil can be conveniently mixed with other supplements and shakes that you take. The capsules are also more expensive than the oils. You can choose to take either form depending on your preferences.

EFAs, though not quite the centre stage material when it comes to supplements, are a crucial part of your needs. While the major supplements like protein, creatine, BCCAs, etc. deliver the main nutrients, EFAs work in the background to lead you to results that you have always desired.

Author: Edward