Omega-3s are commonly consumed to support heart, brain, eye and joint health .
Yet, bodybuilders and other athletes also use this popular supplement for its anti-inflammatory properties . Indeed, omega-3s can increase muscle strength, improve range of motion, and provide many other benefits.
As such, you may wonder if omega-3s can bolster your workout routine.
This article tells you if you should take omega-3s in the form of fish oil for bodybuilding.
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What is Fish Oil?
Fish oil is extracted from the tissues of fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, halibut, and mackerel .
It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered essential because you need to get them from your diet. Your body cannot produce them on its own.
Even though he There are several types of omega-3s , the two found in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) .
The WHO recommends eating at least 227 grams of fish per week due to its fatty acid content .
You can also get omega-3s from plant foods , such as pine nuts, walnuts and flax seeds, but these provide a less active form - alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) - than fish .
The bodybuilding benefits of omega-3s
Fish oil may offer many benefits to bodybuilders largely due to its anti-inflammatory properties .
Omega-3s reduce muscle pain
It is common to feel some soreness after training.
In fact, some people start to feel sore and stiff 12 to 72 hours after unusual or strenuous exercise. That's what we call delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) , which can be caused by inflammation of your muscle cells .
DOMS commonly affects bodybuilders and can hamper motivation and workout performance.
While massage can reduce its symptoms, fish oil can also help by reducing muscle damage and inflammation after a exercise resistance .
In a randomized study, 21 men performed bicep curls after 8 weeks of taking 2400 mg of fish oil (containing 600 mg of EPA and 260 mg of DHA) daily. Fish oil inhibited the development of DOMS and prevented temporary loss of muscle strength, compared to a placebo .
Similarly, a 14-day study found that women who took 6,000 mg of fish oil daily (containing 3,000 mg of EPA and 600 mg of DHA) significantly reduced the severity of DOMS after bicep curls and knee extensions, compared to a placebo .
Omega-3s improve the quality of training
Some research suggests that the EPA and DHA in fish oil can improve workout performance .
This is because their anti-inflammatory properties can prevent or reduce a decline in strength and range of motion resulting from strenuous exercise.
In one study, 16 men took 2400 mg of fish oil (containing 600 mg of EPA and 260 mg of DHA) daily for 8 weeks and then performed 5 sets of 6 bicep crunches. They maintained muscle strength during exercise and showed less muscle swelling than those taking a placebo .
Another 8-week study in 21 men found similar results. Taking the same amount of fish oil daily reduced the temporary loss of muscle strength and range of motion after exercise .
Additionally, a 6-week study of 20 resistance-trained men following a low calorie diet for weight loss showed that daily supplementation with 4000 mg of fish oil (containing 2000 mg of EPA and DHA) maintained or even increased lower body and muscle strength .
As such, fish oil can help maintain muscle strength while dieting, which is a regular part of bodybuilder training.
Omega-3s contribute to muscle health as you age
Aging is associated with the gradual loss of muscle mass. After age 30, muscle mass decreases by 0.1-0.5% per year, with a dramatic increase in loss after age 65 .
As you age, it becomes more difficult to maintain and build muscle, in part due to a decreased response to both resistance training and protein intake .
Interestingly, the anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil can improve your muscles' sensitivity to protein and resistance training, leading to greater gains in muscle size and strength as you age. .
For example, a 16-week study showed that daily supplementation with 4,200 mg of omega-3s (containing 2,700 mg of EPA and 1,200 mg of EPA) significantly increased muscle growth after exercise in older people, compared to younger adults .
Other studies also show that fish oil can increase or maintain muscle mass in the elderly , especially when combined with resistance training .
Although these results indicate benefits for middle-aged and older bodybuilders, more research is needed.
Should I supplement?
Fish oil seems to be the most effective in reducing DOMS, which is common for many bodybuilders.
It may be worth taking fish oil for your general health - especially if your diet is lacking in omega-3 food sources - as this oil is linked to many benefits, such as better heart health and a reduction in inflammation .
If you choose to take it, 2000-3000 mg per day of EPA and DHA is recommended for bodybuilders.
The EPA and DHA content of fish oil supplements varies depending on the type of fish and the processing methods used, so be sure to read the nutrition label and serving size carefully.
According to the European Food Safety Authority, EPA and DHA supplements are generally well tolerated and can be safely taken in combined doses of up to 5,000 mg per day .