High-protein, low-fat, quick-cooking and versatile, fish may be the perfect food for active women. White fish including cod, halibut and tilapia are rich in protein and very low in calories, while fattier varieties such as salmon, tuna, trout and mackerel contain particularly high amounts of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. “Omega-3s are most important for women who train regularly,” says Amy Goodson, MS, CSCS, Dallas Cowboys sports dietitian. They not only ease muscle damage and inflammation during exercise, but omega-3s also possess anti-aging properties that may counteract age-related muscle loss, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study shows omega-3s stimulated muscle synthesis (repairing and building) in older adults, while corn oil supplements had no effect.
The specific omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are considered essential dietary nutrients since our bodies cannot make these types of fats, says Lori Zanini, RD, dietitian with HealthCare Partners and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Aside from muscle growth, eating 8 ounces of fish weekly may help reduce the risk for heart disease.” Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish help reduce inflammation and slow the formation of fatty plaque in arteries, according to an international study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Plus, eating a high-protein meal after a workout in general ensures your body has enough protein to keep on building muscle throughout the day.