In today’s world, fish oil supplement are widely used by people of all age groups. Fish oil is oil derived from tissues of fatty fish. It is rich with the omega 3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Fish acquire these fatty acids through their diet, a major source being algae. These beneficial omegas help support healthy cholesterol, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health, as well as promote the health of the brain, joints, eyes, and skin. They also support the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response.
There are mainly three types of omega-3 fatty acids:
EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID (EPA): An important fatty acid for the circulatory system. Abundant in oily fish, algae, and grass. EPA has 20 carbon atoms.
DOCOSAHEXAENOIC ACID (DHA): An important fatty acid found in the eye and brain membranes. It plays an important role in vision and brain function and is vital for healthy heart function. DHA is also found abundantly in oily fish, algae, and grass. DHA has 22 carbon atoms.
ALPHA LINOLENIC ACID (ALA): Found abundantly in flax seeds, also found in walnuts and canola oil. To a degree, ALA can be converted into EPA in the body. ALA has 18 carbon atoms.
An omega-3 fatty acid is one such important nutrient which is required for the bodily functions. Usually, it is consumed in the natural or supplemental form in order to protect our heart, improve immunity or enhance our skin health. Out of these 3, EPA and DHA are mainly and vastly studied over its health benefits.
Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Athletes
1. Can help prevent and speed up recovery from injuries
2. Help reduce muscle soreness
3. Decreases joint pain and helps accelerate your body’s process of repairing tiny tears in your muscles that occur after working out.
4. Helps you burn body fat
5. Apart from building muscles, it can also help reduce your bad cholesterol levels.
What do the studies say about omega-3 fatty acids?
The study was done on omega-3 fatty acids recently published in the FASEB journal where the 10 healthy young women were given fish oil supplements and another group of 10 healthy young women was given sunflower oil supplements. Both these groups consumed 5gms of oil each in the form of the supplement daily.
Both the groups consumed the supplement daily for four weeks and later, it was observed that omega-3 supplements were found to be beneficial in slowing down muscle loss. Women who had sunflower oil supplement for four weeks suffered from a 6 percent loss of lean muscle mass, while no significant changes were observed in the lean muscle mass of those who consumed omega-3 fatty acids supplement.
This function of omega-3 fatty acids is mainly because of its ability to regulate the mTOR Pathway. mTOR pathway is an important pathway in the process of cell production and growth. This helps in increasing muscle protein synthesis. By regulating this pathway, omega-3 can also reduce the activity of NF-κB and slow down the muscle protein breakdown.
One such study on reported cells treated with EPA (one of the important components of omega-3 fatty acids) has confirmed an increase in muscle protein synthesis by 25%.
It can be a potential method to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage – possibly reducing muscle recovery time. This is also backed up with clinical trials where the daily supplementation with fish oil capsules has shown a significant reduction in muscle soreness in both the arms and lower limbs.
It is very clear that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can help promote muscle protein synthesis and reduce muscle breakdown and soreness. It not only supports the well-being of the normal individual, but it’s a great supplement for athletes too.