An overview of Omega 3 fatty acids
General Nutrition • • 1 minute to read • By Dr Poonam Vichare/Amrut Mangaraj, INFS Faculty
Omega 3, a group of polyunsaturated fat, has consistently shown excellent health outcomes in supplementation studies. The credit goes to the anti-inflammatory properties of the supplement. Considering intense resistance training has a high recovery demand, researchers tested if these properties of Omega 3 will be helpful in muscle recovery after a demanding training session.Omega 3 fatty acids are further classified into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They are involved in the regulation of various biological processes like the inflammatory response and signalling metabolic pathways. Additionally, they can also be synthesized in the body in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). But the conversion is very low for most people.
Exercise inducing muscle fibre damage
Some exercises, specifically when involving high force eccentric or loading, can produce substantial muscle fibre damage. This exercise-induced muscle damage manifests as muscle pain and swelling, with some amount of strength and power loss. Reduced range of motion and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS - soreness that initiates after 24-48 hours of session) happens with the symptoms which usually subside 5 to 7 days after exercise.
In a recent study by Kyriakidou (2021), researchers conducted a randomized control trial in healthy individuals to answer if omega 3 supplementation did can help in the above scenarios.
Later on, the participants took around 2145 mg of EPA and 858 mg of DHA (both omega 3 compounds), both being a form of omega 3, daily for around 4 weeks.
Muscle soreness reduces 24 hours after the exercise in the supplementation group, but not at other time points. No other differences between the supplementation and placebo groups were observed, for instance, inflammation, muscle damage, or performance indicators.
Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation may improve symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage, but it's not clear if the potential effects manifest through improvements in the rate of recovery in physical performance.
Muscle soreness was the only difference observed between both the groups, with participants of the supplemented group reporting less muscle soreness 24 hours just after the exercise was performed. The study answers some aspects of exercise-induced muscle damage but did not clearly mention the effects of improvements in physical performance.
Overall, the results indicate that supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids may reduce muscle soreness in response to a muscle-damaging exercise session.
What do we learn?!
Although due to many limitations such as a small sample size, failure in adjusting multiple comparisons, and lack of binding in the outcome assessors and researchers, the question under review should be interpreted very cautiously. Further research might be needed to necessarily confirm omega 3 supplementation can positively affect muscle damage.
Overall there are several benefits to Omega 3 supplementation, including heart health and brain health. Some evidence does point out that it may assist in the muscle recovery process, although research assisting the same is limited. The health benefits on a large scale do include muscle recovery as an important aspect. Nevertheless, it has a wide range of positive outcomes when supplemented on a regular basis.
- Kyriakidou, Y., Wood, C., Ferrier, C., Dolci, A., & Elliott, B. (2021). The effect of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation on exercise-induced muscle damage. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 18 (1), 9. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-020-00405-1
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