What Omega 3 does for athletes
Anyone who practices a sport benefits from a diet that is supplemented with the Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. We have long known that EPA and DHA help to reduce the risk of sudden death due to cardiac arrhythmia. But these anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fatty acids also help repair your muscles and have a beneficial impact on your oxygen consumption during exercise. Are you an endurance athlete, a strength athlete or involved in team sports? Discover what Omega 3 can mean for you in practice.
Omega 3 for endurance athletes
Cycling, running, swimming and the triathlon are typical endurance sports. For prolonged exercise, the available energy supply (ATP) in the body must be used to the maximum. So it’s helpful that Omega 3 fatty acids ensure that oxygen is used more efficiently.
Under the influence of Omega 3, muscle cells are more receptive to the insulin that is needed to take up glucose. The increased availability of glucose in the muscle increases the production of glycogen. When there is a greater supply of glycogen in the muscles, you can obtain your energy from carbohydrates for longer during exercise before you need to switch to energy from fat. And that helps you to stay fit for longer. This is because the release of energy from fat requires more oxygen, making the effort feel harder, and you automatically begin to perform less well.
Omega 3 for strength athletes
Popular strength sports include fitness, body building and CrossFit. In order to build up muscle tissue gradually during exercise, the use of protein shakes is very popular. But did you know that the Omega 3 fatty acid EPA also helps to build muscle mass?
EPA is an additional trigger for muscles to produce more muscle protein. You can argue that EPA makes the skeletal muscles more receptive to anabolic stimuli such as strength training and protein intake. Note that with Omega 3 supplements, it takes at least two weeks before EPA is present in the skeletal muscles in sufficient concentration to give you this benefit. The Omega 3 fatty acid DHA has another function. DHA facilitates muscle activation - the transmission from nerves to muscles is smoother. This means that you can build strength quite a lot faster
'EPA is an additional trigger for muscles to produce more muscle protein'
Quicker muscle repair
When a muscle comes under prolonged tension (eccentric muscle contractions), muscle damage will occur. Running downhill, bending the knees (squats, whether or not using weights), frequently stopping and starting explosively during team sports and so on can all lead to pain and stiffness in the muscles used, and this can last from a few hours to days. These symptoms are reduced by the use of the Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. This is because these Omega 3 fatty acids maintain the integrity of the muscle cell membranes and simultaneously have an anti-inflammatory effect.
'Omega 3 fatty acids maintain the integrity of the muscle cell membranes'
Stick to the rule of 3
Athletes obtain many benefits from taking the Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, generally 1 to 3 g of EPA+DHA daily. It makes no difference whether you are an endurance athlete, a strength athlete or play team sports; nor whether your sporting activities are competitive or purely recreational.
Your daily dose of anti-inflammatory Omega 3 gives you:
1) more efficient oxygen use
2) an extra trigger for building muscle and
3) faster repair of muscle damage.
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- Ochi E, Tsuchiya Y. Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) in Muscle Damage and Function. Nutrients 2018 Apr 29;10(5).
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- Rossato LT, Schoenfeld BJ, de Oliveira EP. Is there sufficient evidence to supplement omega-3 fatty acids to increase muscle mass and strength in young and older adults? Clin Nutr 2019. pii: S0261-5614(19)30002-0.