Omega 3s and sport

The « physical activities » and « sports » sector is growing and more and more people are practising at least one. In 2015,  an increasing part (65 %) of the population over 15 was practising at least one activity.  

All physical conditions and tastes are concerned and everyone is able to practice for numerous reasons: keep up his physical condition safely, improve performance, meet new challenges, create new social bonds. 

Omega-3 is a fatty acid family involved in several metabolic function. Omega-3 supplementation has been studied in order to act in synergy with physical  activity and reduce some risks linked with sports: 

  • Improvement of muscular, cardiovascular and respiratory performance
  • Inhibition of induced muscle and joint pain.   

But what is it actually? Are omega-3s going to become sportsmen and women best friends? 

Fatty acid functions 

Fatty acids are constituents of cell membranes. The fatty acid composition of membranes depends partly on the fatty acid content of the diet.   

Omega-3s EPA and DHA play a role in membrane fluidity and generate lipid mediators that play a role in the resolution of inflammation, thus promoting the return to homeostasis. By modulating inflammation, omega-3s have numerous beneficial effects on the heart, the immune system and inflammation induced by exercise and can thus help prevent and limit certain problems encountered by sportmen and women after their effort.  

Improvement of the cardiovascular system 

Physical performance also depends on the efficiency of the cardiovascular system to meet the needs of the muscles.  

The Macartney’s study on 26 physically fit men showed that a supplementation of 2g of omega-3 (140mg EPA + 560mg DHA)/day for 8 weeks, reduces the average heart rate during exercise (4-5 beats/min less) and leads to a faster recovery of the heart rate after training.  

The study by O’Keefe et al shows that EPA and DHA supplementation significantly decreases heart rate at rest and accelerates the return to a normal heart rate after standing and exercise.  

Other studies show that in overweight people, the mutual combination of EPA/DHA supplementation and physical activity reduces cardiovascular risk and body weight. 

Improvement of respiratory performance 

To provide the oxygen the muscles need, it is essential to have an efficient internal delivery system and a pwerful absorption machine.  

A study was conducted in 2010 on 40 young wrestlers (100% male), all of whom received 1000mg of ω-3 (180g EPA + 120mg DHA) as a daily supplement for 12 weeks.  

The results of this study show an increase in the volume of air inhaled/exhaled as well as an increase in maximum lung capacity. The various data collected show an improvement in the recovery of these young wrestlers.   

EPA/DHA supplementation coupled with physical activity increased the wrestlers’ ventilation and lung capacity.   

Other studies have confirmed these results with a combination of endurance exercise and EPA/DHA supplementation of over 2g per day. 

Muscle preservation 

Elderly are recommended to practice sport activities in order to stimulate their body and inhibit muscle syneresis: a natural phenomenon that occurs because of a protein synthesis/proteolysis imbalance.  

The 2012 study by Cintia L N Rodacki et al on 45 elderly women showed that EPA and DHA supplementation in combination with a physical training program increased muscle strength and functional capacity more significantly in the supplemented group.   

An Omega-3 supplementation and physical exercise exert a synergic improvement of physical condition in vulnerable population. 

Better recovery after exercise thanks to Omega 3 ?   

After physical training, we are exposed to after-effects such as muscle pain: this is a local inflammation due to intensive stress. Some studies highlighted the positive effects of EPA and DHA on muscle recovery after exercice.  

The trial by Jouris K.B. & al. in 2011 shows that a balanced omega-6/omega-3 ratio of 4:1 is necessary to observe an adjusted inflammatory response in a stressful situation, and thus alleviate muscle pain after physical training. 

The study by Ochi et al shows that 8 weeks of EPA + DHA supplementation may play a protective role against motor nerve function and may attenuate muscle damage after eccentric contractions. 

What you need to remember ! 

People practicing a physical activity are looking for performance improvement without after-exercise hindrances. 

Omega-3 are involved in the improvement of cardiovascular condition and at the same time the respiratory performance. They are effective in case of endurance training. 

At the same time, Omega-3 are precursor of anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce side-effects of physical exercise like muscle soreness or joint pain. 

It is therefore important to supplement with Omega 3 if we want to improve our sports performance or simply recover better after our training. 

What you need to remember ! 

People practicing a physical activity are looking for performance improvement without after-exercise hindrances.


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