Omega-3 improves sports performance

omega-3 improves sports performance

Athletes who receive omega-3 fatty acid supplements have improved muscular function and less muscular fatigue

A new study by researchers at the University of Toronto and published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reports omega-3 fatty acid supplements can improve neuromuscular function and reduce muscular fatigue among athletes. Those who received omega-3 for 3 weeks had a 20% increase in their muscular function in the thigh.

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids in the form of long chains in fatty fish, shells, crustaceans, and chicken eggs fed with flax seeds. They can also be synthesized from the alpha-linolenic acid of rapeseed, flax seeds, walnuts…

“The ability of skeletal muscles to generate strength and withstand fatigue is essential in sports performance,” explain the authors in their article. “Training adaptations of skeletal and neuromuscular muscular systems modulate the ability to generate muscular strength and fatigue resistance.”

“Many studies have evaluated the effect of nutritional supplements on bodybuilding (protein supplementation) and methods for enhancing endurance performance (carbohydrate load).” But to date, few studies have focused on the effect of nutritional supplements on the neuromuscular system.

The central and peripheral nerves are composed of fatty acids, essentially polyunsaturated. “Omega-3 is an integral part of neurons, nerve endings, myelin and muscle membranes.” And more and more evidence suggests that omega-3 improves neuronal function and adaptations to exercise. “Omega-3 supplementation would be able to improve the velocity of nerve conduction, membrane fluidity, sensitivity to acetylcholine and also reduce inflammation after exercise.”

The researchers conducted their study on 30 male athletes on average 25 years old and trained about 17 hours per week. Participants received either the seal oil supplement containing long chain omega-3 (375 mg eicosapentaenoic acid EPA, 230 mg docosapentaenoic acid DPA, 510 mg docosahexaenoic DHA acid per day) or placebo for 3 weeks. The athletes passed tests at the beginning and end of the study.

The results show omega-3 supplements are associated with a significant increase in the level of EPA in the blood compared to placebo-receiving participants. But the researchers did not find any difference between the two groups for the levels of DPA and DHA.

Omega-3 supplements allowed a 20% increase in muscle function of the thigh, evaluated by electromyography of the extensive external muscle, compared to placebo. Omega-3 supplements were also associated with a reduction in muscle fatigue.

“To our knowledge, this study is the first to evaluate the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on athletes by measuring both the changes in neuromuscular function and performance,” the authors say. “This study shows omega-3 supplements increase muscle activation and reduce fatigue.” According to the authors, there is sufficient evidence to conclude omega-3 has a beneficial effect among athletes.

The authors explain that omega-3 modifies the composition of the cell membrane and its fluidity, which could stimulate the nerve function. “Omega-3 supplementation may have altered the membrane dynamics of the muscle and improved the conduction of muscle action potential through the working muscle.” “Altering the membrane dynamics may have attenuated muscle damage.”

Similarly, in the group having received omega-3, the attenuation of muscle damage could maintain the conduction of the action potential in the muscle, now thus the excitation-contraction coupling and finally the generation capacity of muscular strength.

This study is in addition to the already existing evidence of omega-3 benefits in the nutrition of the athlete.


Lewis EJ, Radonic PW, Wolever TM, Wells GD. 21 days of mammalian omega-3 fatty acid supplementation improves aspects of neuromuscular function and performance in male athletes compared to olive oil placebo. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Jun 18;12:28. doi: 10.1186/s12970-015-0089-4. eCollection 2015.


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