The team’s conclusions are that while four weeks of omega-3 supplementation can reduce minor aspects of exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD), it has little effect on performance improvement.

“While omega-3 supplementation didn’t seem to improve performance, it did reduce the pain participants felt. We suggest they are useful in themselves as people don’t like exercising because it hurts,” says lead study author Yvoni Kyriakidou, a PhD student in the University of Westminster’s School of Life Sciences. “If it doesn’t hurt so much, maybe more people keep doing it?”

The research team writes in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition that increased accumulation of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can dull reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the production of pro-inflammatory proteins.

In addition, anti-inflammatory substances made from polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids (PUFA) have been identified that contribute to their mechanism of action.

Study details .

The team enrolled 14 healthy men, around the age of 25, who were then randomized to take three grams of 0-mega-3 supplements three times a day or a matching placebo per day.

After four weeks of supplementation, subjects were asked to walk downhill for 60 minutes.

Creatine kinase (CK), interleukin (IL) -6 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) -α, perceived muscle soreness, maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) and peak exercise were recorded before, after and 24, 48 and 72 hours after the recording -EIMD.

The researchers found a lower inflammatory response and decreased muscle damage after exercise in the fish oil group.

Even so, the omega-3 did not appear to change the amount of strength loss in future muscle contractions, suggesting that omega-3 supplementation had limited effects on muscle function, recovery, and subsequent performance.

The team delved into their results and found no significant differences in the measurements of muscle strength (Maximum Voluntary Isometric Contraction (MVIC)) between groups, suggesting that muscle damage from omega-3 consumption was unchanged.

The team also measured muscle function using peak cycling performance, again no significant differences between the groups were observed.

Interestingly, the placebo group showed a significant suppression of peak performance 24 hours after the EIMD compared to the pre-EIMD.

The team adds that the potential to maintain voluntary peak performance would be of interest to athletes who require repetitive peak performance, compounded by differences in perceived pain at that point in time. “


“Overall, these results support the hypothesis that 4 weeks of n-3 supplementation at 3 g / day may attenuate minor aspects of EIMD such as those seen with DOMS (Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness) and Peak Power,” concludes Paper.

“Typically, no significant differences between the groups were found, but a blunt inflammatory response was observed immediately after eccentric training.

“There were also no significant differences in leg strength between groups, indicating that n-3 supplementation has limited effects on muscle function and subsequent performance.

“While these results do not improve performance, they may be relevant to avoiding exercise-related pain.”

Source: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition

Published online:

“The Effects of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Supplementation on Exercise-Caused Muscle Damage.”

Authors: Kyriakidou, Y. et al.


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