When it comes to your supplement tool box, omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils) are always considered by many as a ‘no brainer’.
However, when it comes to performance and the athlete, is it actually beneficial?
To keep things ultra-concise, Philpott et al (2018) looked at the entirety of the research and graded seven key contexts on a scales of 1-5 based on the strength of evidence (5 = very beneficial, 1= piss poor).
1) Strength and power (score = 2-3): Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to switch on the enzyme that initiates the muscle building process. Howevs, if adequate protein is consumed in the diet, it somewhat voids the added boost from Omega 3’s.
2) Endurance (Score = 2-3): Supplementation appears to improve the body’s ability to use oxygen during endurance exercise. However, it’s still unsure whether this physiological improvement directly impacts performance.
3) Team Sports (Score = 2-3): There’s some pretty cool preliminary evidence to suggest that supplementing can improve day to day recovery and reduce the associated decline in muscle function. Similarly, there’s some research suggesting it can aid with an athletes training adaptation – however, does this fall under the same reasoning of point 1?
4) Fat Loss (Score = 2): One worry for many athletes dieting is losing muscle mass…Fish oils however, is not the answer.
5) Injury (Score = 2): During limb immobilisation, muscle mass loss becomes accelerated. In rodents, supplementing with Omega 3’s may benefit muscle retention. This is still a TBC in humans.
6) Concussion (Score = 2): A similar theme here…There’s some preliminary evidence to suggest that Omega 3’s may benefit with concussion symptoms. Although, more research is needed for it to be conclusive.
7) Bleeding (Score = 4): Previously, it was suggested to avoid supplementation around surgery as it’ll promote bleeding. However, Omega 3’s does not appear to impact bleeding rates.
Although the evidence is still pretty weak, consuming adequate Omega 3’s in the diet or through supplementation does appear to provide some benefit to the athlete, without it being detrimental.
Knowing this, I would still recommend supplementation IF you don’t consume adequate amounts of oily fish in your diet. If you DO, then there’s probably very little need to supplement…
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