Olive Oil: Nectar of the (Strength) Gods

      A couple months ago, I had a friend staying with me for a MDUSA tryout and witnessed him downing tablespoons of olive oil. I cringed at the the thought of this and after a couple times of seeing this I finally asked “What is up with the olive oil?” He smiled and simply responded, “I need the calories.” I was puzzled with this, and of course I started doing some research. I also contacted some friends in various strength sports to see if they have heard of this and if it was effective or not. After collecting some information on this topic, I have some views that I want to get out there and I hope may be able to help you with your training and diet.

     When looking at olive oil, there are three main benefits that a person can gain by using it in your daily routines. The first and most important is that olive oil is a natural anti-inflammatory. Studies have shown that this substance contains oleocanthal, which inhibits the body’s inflammation response and is used in ibuprofen. Now I know there is a big debate going on right now whether anti-inflammatories are good or bad and all I am saying each person is different and they have their own preferences. No one is saying you have to take it for that reason but it is one of the main benefits that olive oil can provide for you.

    The second benefit people can receive from this superfood is the amount of good fats it can provide. Olive oil has 14 grams of fat and just 2 grams of saturated fat. It also lacks sodium, cholesterol, and carbs so you know all you are getting is good fats from this product. With all the fast food and deep frying that is going on it is good to know there is something you can use in cooking and with your meals that is good for you and provides you with the right amounts and types of fats. Fats are a good source of energy for the body. You hear of a lot of people who cut out carbs and fats when trying to lose weight. But since you need to still provide the body with some form of energy, why not a high amount of good fats? This will allow your body to still perform at its best.

    The last benefit is that olive oil can provide you with a lot of calories quickly. Calories are also a good indicator of energy. If you are eating a more calorically dense food you are getting more energy. Whether it’s sugar, multi grains, or fat you are still providing the body with energy. A single tablespoon contains 120 calories! It is very hard to find a healthy substance with that high of a caloric value with so little of the substance. If you count your calories you may be wary of this, but you have to look at this as getting more with consuming less. This is great for those who need to eat lots of calories, like me, or for those like my teammate who need energy but not density of food.

    As a super (105+kg/231+lbs) in weightlifting and a little bit on the smaller side of those numbers, II often find it hard to keep weight on and therefore need to continually increase my bodyweight. Given all the health risks that are out there, and my background as a PE and Health Teacher, I don’t want to be an unhealthy 300+ pounds. I know there will be some body fat, I am not a complete idiot, but I can still get the calories I need through eating “good” food. Olive oil is a staple in my  diet; I can get the calories I need without eating a lot of crap and still get good fats and provide my body with the nutritional benefits it needs. I have talked with some powerlifters and other weightlifters and this is a common practice. Other oils have been used as well, I have heard of canola oil being used for the second and third benefits more. Some have even gone as far as to add a ½ cup to a cup to their protein shakes. I could not stomach taking a tablespoon of olive oil, but when I heard the protein shake idea I gave it a shot. I can report that it works better and doesn’t alter the taste of the shake very much while boosting the shake calorically and nutritionally. It may not be something you want to try, but the facts and testimonials are there for the benefits. So when you are at the grocery store this weekend, grab a bottle of olive oil and add it to your meals and know you are doing good for your body.

What do you think: superfood or complete BS?

  1. Heather says:

    Hi Tom!

    I’m so glad you’ve posted this, it’s almost rekindled my love for olive oil! I recently read (and heard) that the benefits of coconut oil outweigh those of olive oil for cooking. The reason was that the smoke point of olive oil is lower than that of coconut (unless I misunderstood!) and therefore once the smoke point is reached, it loses much of its nutritional value. Is there any truth to this? Can I interchange them? Thanks!

    • The Strength Agenda says:

      Hi Heather,

      Let me do a bit more research on this. I know Coconut oil does have a higher smoke point, and I believe it’s recommended more for cooking because it takes longer to release free radicals because it can sustain the higher heat, but I don’t know how much of a difference that makes against olive oil. I’ll get back to you with a better answer. I do know that fitness pros are pretty much split down the middle on this, so I don’t think you can go wrong with either option, though!


  2. MikeH says:

    This is a good option for healthy caloric supplementation, and better than some oils. Soybean , sunflower, and corn oil have an omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratio of 6:1 or more, and the western diet has a ration of 16.7:1. An equal ratio is believed to be better (Simopoulos 1991, 2001, and lots of other sources). While we need both kinds of fats to make tissues and certain hormones, this ratio is a little out of whack. Add to that the fact that most of our meat is raised on soy and corn, and we get too much omega 6.

    Eicosonoid hormones made from omega 6 fatty acids are more effective, meaning more inflammatory, than those made using omega 3 fatty acids. So the average American’s diet is proinflammatory. Olive oil is a good way, like fish oil, to get more omega 3 fatty acids and fix the balance. This should help prevent excessive inflammation. Omega 3’s are actually an FDA approved treatment for rheumatoid arthritis

    Sorry to write a book – I’m a med student trying to avoid studying more

  3. Nathan Greaves says:

    I’m moving out soon and will be lower on funds than I’m used to. I’ve been trying to find a replacement for fish oil, or at least a cheaper option. I’ll definitely be giving this a whirl. I’ll be sure to post back with progress etc. thanks Tom!

    • The Strength Agenda says:

      Good luck! You can find high quality, inexpensive olive oil at places like Marshall’s/TJ Maxx/Homegoods. The wife picks up big bottles for $5-10, each! – Tom

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