T Nation

Getting the Most from Your Supplements: The Fish Oil Example.


Are You An Educated Consumer? Lessons in Saving Money By Reading Labels: Fish Oil Supplements.

As a consumer advocate of sorts, I have always strived to educate consumers regarding supplements, be it whether or not a supplement was worth using, or if it was worth using for the money being charged. Ingredient X may get a thumbs up from me, but that does not mean the products you use that contain ingredient X has the correct dose of that ingredient to be worth the cost. Translated, not only do you have to make sure you are getting the correct dose of said ingredient X, you have to cost compare to see if it?s a good deal. The only way to do that, is to read the labels. It?s stunning to me how little effort people put into reading the simple labels to see if what they are purchasing is cost effective. They often just grab the giant-jug-O-whey and fail to realize it?s not the bargain they think it is. Or they grab that big bottle of ?cheap? fish oil caps and think they saved money.

You have to compare labels and doses or you are simply throwing money away. Speaking of fish oils supplements, it?s a perfect example of how one can compare labels and doses to see if (1) they are getting the correct dose for the effects they desire (e.g., the therapeutic dose) and (2) if the product is actually cost effective compared to another.

Quality issues not withstanding, do you actually look at the % of active lipids EPA and DHA when you buy fish oil supplements? Retailers are betting you don?t?What?s the better deal: A product that is 30% active lipids for $20 for 100 1g caps vs. say a product that is 50% active lipids containing the same 100 1g caps for $25? clearly, the latter product is the better deal but the first is cheaper.

Two, are you looking at the % of active lipids to make sure you are taking enough to have an effect? If not, you are short changing yourself both physically and financially. In either of my ebooks for example, I attempt to not only teach people which supplements actually work, but how to learn to read labels, so they are educated consumers, able to save money on the supplements they purchase. For example - keeping with the fish oil theme - what follows is right out of my Fat Loss Revealed ebook:

Studies with fish oils have used doses that are quite variable, so no exact dose is known in terms of optimal effects on fat loss/bodycomp, but 6 - 10 g/day (assuming 30% EPA + DHA) is a starting point. So, a 1000mg (1g) softgell cap of fish oil, would be approximately 180mg of EPA and 120mg of DHA, assuming the general rule of 30% total active lipids. Fish oil comes as 60/40 EPA to DHA.

I would recommend at least approximately 6g (6 1000mg caps) fish oils giving you a total of 1800mg of active lipids per day assuming 30% of 6g is EPA and DHA, but you must read the labels for exact numbers. Looking at specific brands for example:

Puritan?s Pride uses a 1200mg cap, each containing 360mg total active lipids. You would need 5 caps to = 1800mg total active lipids.

Looking at The Life Extension Foundation: They use a 1000mg cap that gives 600mg total active lipids per cap, which means you would need 3 caps to equal the recommended 1800mg above.

Looking at Nordic Naturals, they use a 1000mg cap that gives a total of 275mg of active lipids per cap, so you will need 6-7 caps per day

Looking at Carlson?s, they use a 1000mg cap that gives a total of 320mg of active Omega-3 lipids, so you would need 5-6 caps of this product.

Read your labels people!

  • Will Brink


Glad you post here Will!


I read my labels, I look for the Biotest logo.


if a supplement is taken on an empty stomach, how long should I wait before eating?


If it is meant to affect your meal, I'd take it 15-20 min prior, no sooner or later.

If it is meant to be had on an empty stomach exclusively, I'd take it around 45-60 min before your next meal and 1.5 hrs after your last meal.

That's just my judgment, though, nothing scientific.


Also depends on the specific supplement, but your general rule O thumb above covers it well I think.




I was guilty of doing those stuffs a few years ago; buying supplements according to the price per serving without actually looking at the nutritional info. Thanks to T-Nation and bbr I now know much better when it comes to choosing the right supplement for my goals.

Biotest and LEF are two of the few companies that I consider as honest, meaning what you see on the label is what you get and is the products are of the highest quality. I used to think that as long as I stick with the popular brand name supplements I'll be safe but apparently that's not the case. Supplement companies were caught misleading customers by labeling their products wrongly. Now, if only ebay sells more Biotest products in the UK...