Benefits of Omega 3 Fats on Physical Performance


Benefits of Omega 3 Fats on Physical Performance

There are many benefits of omega 3 fats but when you think of fitness this may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, the addition of this compound may keep your performance going strong.

There are three types of omega 3 fats that we want to get in the diet. They include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) [R].

Omega 3 fat is an essential nutrient. This means we must get them from the diet. Foods with Alpha-linolenic acid can also be converted into EPA and DHA. There is a limit to how much we can actually utilize with less than 15 percent is absorbed by the body. In order to increase EPA and DHA levels, these fats must be obtained from food [R].

Omega 3 Fats Recommended Intakes for Adults

Intake recommendations for adults 19 years and older are 1.6 for males and 1.1 grams for women. Pregnancy and lactation needs are higher at 1.4 and 1.4 grams per day [R].

Food Sources of Omega 3 Fats

Omega 3 fats are found in plant and animal foods. Flaxseed oils, chia seeds, and walnuts contain ALA [R].

DPA and EPA are found in fish and grass-fed beef. The content of the fat varies depending on the fish. Cold-water fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines contain high amounts of these fats. Fish with a lower fat content such as bass, tilapia, cod, and shellfish have lower levels. The omega 3 content also depends on what food the fish ate [R].

Foods are also fortified with omega 3 fatty acids but these synthetic forms are not the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids. It is better to get them from natural sources.

Why You May Need An Omega 3 Fats Supplement

It can be hard to get adequate omega 3 fats. Unless you eat two servings of 3 to 4 ounces of fish a week you may be lacking in your omega 3 intakes. A supplement may be recommended for those who do get enough fish, don’t like the taste, or cannot have fish.

If you are someone who is eating fish two times a week a supplement may not be worth it for you [R].

Benefits of Omega 3 Fats

There are many health benefits of omega 3 fats. Their anti-inflammatory properties are what give them the ability to improve immune health and prevent chronic diseases. One thing that you may not know about is how they may amp up your fitness. Learn how omega 3 fats may improve exercise performance, weight loss, increase muscle mass, and help with recovery.

Benefits of Omega 3 Fats They May Improve Weight Loss

Animal studies indicate fish oil and omega 3 fats may lead to weight loss, however it has been hard to prove in human studies. Higher levels of omega 3 fats were also found among those with better weight management. Obese individuals often had lower omega 3 levels than those who were of normal weight [R].

Abdominal fat was shown to be reduced in those who took fish oil when combined with a healthy lifestyle such as exercise and a nutritious diet. The mechanism behind why this occurs is still unclear and more research needs to be done to find a connection between weight loss and fish oil. [R].

Benefits of Omega 3 Fats They May Increase Muscle Growth

Muscle protein was synthesized in nine healthy adult subjects after taking 4 grams of an omega 3 supplement for 8 weeks. The supplement was found to activate the mammalian target of rapamycin pathway (mTOR) which elicits protein synthesis. Muscle protein levels also increased after taking this supplement [R]. Better results were seen in supplements with EPA than DHA [R].

Benefits of Omega 3 Fats They May Improve Muscle Recovery and Prevent Wasting

Omega 3 fats may have the ability to improve muscle recovery and prevent wasting. A study of healthy young women taking 5 grams of a fish oil supplement had better muscle recovery on a leg that was immobilized for two weeks than those who took a placebo [R].

Benefits of Omega 3 Fats They May Prevent Muscle Soreness

The anti-inflammatory properties of omega 3 fats may be helpful to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) which occurs after exercising [R]. Post-exercise bicep soreness was minimized in healthy men and women after taking 3,000 mg of fish oil for seven days.

Men participating in elbow contraction exercises had less soreness after taking a 300 mg fish oil with 600 mg EPA and 260 mg DHA for a total of 13 days when compared with a placebo [R].

These effects may be helpful to all types of individuals: athletes undergoing serious training or those who are just starting out with exercise [R].

Omega 3 Fats May Improve Physical Performance and Strength

Omega 3 fats may help muscles to improve physical performance and strength.

Force and muscle strength were sustained after taking a supplement with EPA and DHA. Men who were given 600 mg EPA and 260 mg DHA per day for 8 weeks increased muscle output [R].

Muscle strength improved among adults who took part in a combination program of resistance training and fish oil supplementation over 12 weeks [R].

Omega 3 found in fish oil may play a role in activating the function of muscles to enhance strength training outcomes. A study of elderly women showed improvements in strength after taking a fish oil supplement for 90 days [R].

More research needs to be done to establish the dosage that will maximize performance while preventing any unwanted side effects [R].

Diet played a larger role in strength training than a fish oil supplement. Those with energy-restricted diets were found to show improvements in strength regardless of the diet when taking fish supplements [R].

Supplement Recommendations

If you cannot get enough fish in your diet or you don’t like to eat fish you may want to consider taking a fish oil supplement. Fish oil, krill oil, cod liver oil, and vegetarian products that contain algal oil are types of supplements available. Typically supplements provide about 1,000 mg fish oil with 180 mg EPA and 120 mg DHA but it can vary by product. Recommendations for intake are 200 to 300 EPA and DHA per day [R].

Krill oil may be more absorbable omega 3 fats than fish oil but more research is needed to know the true effects of this type of oil. Plant-based sources of omega 3 fat from algal usually have about 100-300 mg DHA. Some will also contain EPA as well [R].

The most bioavailable supplements include those that are made of free fatty acids (FFA), triglycerides (TG), reformed triglycerides (rTG), and phospholipids (PLs) [R].

Fish oil can go bad. Be sure to check expiration dates and throw out when in doubt. If the product smells rancid you do not want to consume it.

Be sure to consume the supplement with a food that contains fat. This will increase your absorption [R].

What To Look For In a Fish Oil

You want to look for a quality product that has a good dose of EPA and DHA fats and has been tested for purity.

Side Effects of Omega 3 Fats Supplements

The acceptable range of intake for omega 3 fatty acids is 0.6 to 1.2 percent of calories for adults. Ten percent of that should come from EPA and/or DHA fats. There is no maximum intake for omega 3 fats but they did find that a dose of DHA and/or EPA of 600 to 900 mg per day may reduce immune function and suppress inflammatory responses [R].

EPA and DHA Side Effects

There are no reports on serious adverse reactions in using EPA and DHA supplements. Common side effects include a fishy aftertaste, bad breath, nausea, stomach upset, belching, heartburn, diarrhea, headache, and odoriferous sweat. High doses may cause nausea and loose stools [R].

Bleeding and reduced platelet aggregation may be seen with doses of 2 to 15 grams of EPA and/or DHA per day. The American Food and Drug Administration recommends not exceeding 3 grams a day of EPA and DHA combined with up to 2 grams per day from dietary supplements [R].

High doses of EPA and DHA can lead to the side effects mentioned above [R].

Flaxseed Oil Side Effects

Flaxseed oil is usually not a problem for people but in high doses, it causes loose stools or diarrhea. It has also been shown to cause allergic and anaphylactic reactions [R].

Contaminants in Fish and Supplements

Some fish tend to have high levels of mercury and environmental contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Larger fishes tend to have the highest contaminants of these levels. Removal of skin, fat, and internal organs prior to cooking and allowing fat to drain will decrease the exposure to contaminants but the mercury levels will be found through the fish [R].

Laboratory analyses of fish oils found these supplements are often free of methylmercury, PCBs, and dioxins. Most of the contaminants reside in the muscle and not the fat of the fish. Fish oil generally contains lower levels of PCBs and other fat-soluble contaminants than fish liver oils. If you are concerned about the quality of your fish oil look for a product that is free of contaminants [R].

Interactions with Medications

Those with diabetes and other health conditions should be aware of possible drug medication interactions. Warfarin and other anticoagulants can cause excessive bleeding when taken with fish oil supplements. Doses of 3 to 6 grams per day do not affect these medications. Patients should check with their doctor before starting a fish oil supplement [R].

To Sum It All Up

Depending on your diet a fish oil supplement may be needed to get the essential fats to improve health. The anti-inflammatory properties of Omega 3 supplements may be helpful to lose weight, increase muscle, energy, and recovery. These supplements must be chosen wisely to make sure they contain adequate amounts of the necessary fats we need. There can also be side effects, unpleasant and medical interactions with medications if we are not careful. It is important to ask a healthcare provider about any possible problems before starting a fish oil supplement.

16 Resources

  1. “Office of Dietary Supplements - Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” n.d.
  2. Nichols, Peter D., James Petrie, and Surinder Singh. 2010. “Long-Chain Omega-3 Oils-an Update on Sustainable Sources.” Nutrients 2 (6): 572–85.
  3. “Findings about the Vital Study.” n.d.
  4. Du, Shichun, Jie Jin, Wenjun Fang, and Qing Su. 2015. “Does Fish Oil Have an Anti-Obesity Effect in Overweight/Obese Adults? A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” PloS One 10 (11): e0142652.
  5. Smith, Gordon I., Philip Atherton, Dominic N. Reeds, B. Selma Mohammed, Debbie Rankin, Michael J. Rennie, and Bettina Mittendorfer. 2011. “Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Augment the Muscle Protein Anabolic Response to Hyperinsulinaemia-Hyperaminoacidaemia in Healthy Young and Middle-Aged Men and Women.” Clinical Science 121 (6): 267–78.
  6. Kamolrat, Torkamol, and Stuart R. Gray. 2013. “The Effect of Eicosapentaenoic and Docosahexaenoic Acid on Protein Synthesis and Breakdown in Murine C2C12 Myotubes.” Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 432 (4): 593–98.
  7. McGlory, Chris, Stefan H. M. Gorissen, Michael Kamal, Ravninder Bahniwal, Amy J. Hector, Steven K. Baker, Adrian Chabowski, and Stuart M. Phillips. 2019. “Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation Attenuates Skeletal Muscle Disuse Atrophy during Two Weeks of Unilateral Leg Immobilization in Healthy Young Women.” FASEB Journal: Official Publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology 33 (3): 4586–97.
  8. Hotfiel, Thilo, Jürgen Freiwald, Matthias Wilhelm Hoppe, Christoph Lutter, Raimund Forst, Casper Grim, Wilhelm Bloch, Moritz Hüttel, and Rafael Heiss. 2018. “Advances in Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): Part I: Pathogenesis and Diagnostics.” Sportverletzung Sportschaden: Organ Der Gesellschaft Fur Orthopadisch-Traumatologische Sportmedizin 32 (4): 243–50.
  9. Ochi, Eisuke, Yosuke Tsuchiya, and Kenichi Yanagimoto. 2017. “Effect of Eicosapentaenoic Acids-Rich Fish Oil Supplementation on Motor Nerve Function after Eccentric Contractions.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 14 (July): 23.
  10. Ochi, Eisuke, Kenichi Yanagimoto, Takuma Morishima, and Yosuke Tsuchiya. 2019. “Eicosapentaenoic Acid-Rich Fish Oil Supplementation Inhibits the Decrease in Concentric Work Output and Muscle Swelling of the Elbow Flexors.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 38 (2): 125–31.
  11. Lee, Sang-Rok, Edward Jo, and Andy V. Khamoui. 2019. “Chronic Fish Oil Consumption with Resistance Training Improves Grip Strength, Physical Function, and Blood Pressure in Community-Dwelling Older Adults.” Sports (Basel, Switzerland) 7 (7).
  12. Rodacki, Cintia L. N., André L. F. Rodacki, Gleber Pereira, Katya Naliwaiko, Isabela Coelho, Daniele Pequito, and Luiz Cléudio Fernandes. 2012. “Fish-Oil Supplementation Enhances the Effects of Strength Training in Elderly Women.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 95 (2): 428–36.
  13. Mickleborough, Timothy D. 2013. “Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Physical Performance Optimization.” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 23 (1): 83–96.
  14. Philpott, Jordan D., Niels J. Bootsma, Nidia Rodriguez-Sanchez, David Lee Hamilton, Elizabeth MacKinlay, James Dick, Samuel Mettler, Stuart D. R. Galloway, Kevin D. Tipton, and Oliver C. Witard. 2019. “Influence of Fish Oil-Derived N-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation on Changes in Body Composition and Muscle Strength During Short-Term Weight Loss in Resistance-Trained Men.” Frontiers in Nutrition 6 (July): 102.
  15. Lawson, L. D., and B. G. Hughes. 1988. “Absorption of Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid from Fish Oil Triacylglycerols or Fish Oil Ethyl Esters Co-Ingested with a High-Fat Meal.” Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 156 (2): 960–63.
  16. “Essential Fatty Acids.” 2014. Linus Pauling Institute. April 28, 2014.