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Fish oil benefits those who exercise

Omega-3 fats are essential nutrients associated with an array of health effects. Unless you eat fatty fish a couple times per week, there’s a good chance you’re not getting optimal amounts of the functional omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.

Due to the overwhelming body of research indicating that higher EPA and DHA levels are associated with better health, new research is beginning to examine if supplementing with them benefits active individuals. Japanese researchers examined the effects of fish oil supplementation versus placebo on oxygen uptake during cycling exercise. Healthy recreationally active men participating in sports approximately twice per week were randomly assigned to a fish oil group (3.6g/day consisting of 900 mg EPA and 400mg DHA) or a placebo group. After 8 weeks of supplementation, the EPA and DHA content of the red blood cell membranes in the fish oil group had increased 148% (EPA) and 13% (DHA). Surprisingly, the participants’ perceived exertion and oxygen consumption during steady state cycling exercise were lower in the fish oil group, indicating they were performing the same exercise with less work and less perceived effort.

In a different study, researchers examined the effects of supplementing with DHA (2g/day for 28 days) versus placebo on markers of muscle damage and inflammation following eccentric exercise. Healthy untrained men performed a damaging eccentric biceps curl workout and were then monitored for 17 days of recovery. DHA supplementation decreased the acute inflammatory and damage response to exercise as reflected by significantly lower interleukin-6 and creatine kinase levels. Delayed onset muscle soreness over the entire 17-day recovery period was 10% lower in the DHA group. These studies indicate that omega-3 fatty acids can provide some benefit to active individuals by improving exercise economy and decreasing the initial stress response to exercise.

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