Acute Fish Oil Consumption Lessens Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage

Key-takeaway: Exercise both strengthens and damages muscle. Nutritional omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may help maintain normal muscle function after a damaging bout of exercise. Manufacturers and formulators may find value in adding eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) to custom nutrient premixes targeted to healthy men at risk for exercise-induced muscle damage.

Exercise-induced muscle damage due to a bout of exercise causes increased post-exercise localized inflammation, perceived muscle soreness at 24-72h post exercise, and a reduction in subsequent exercise performance. Nutritional supplementation has been used to facilitate recovery from a damaging bout of exercise. Increasing omega-3 fatty acid status can alter the production of pro-inflammatory signaling molecules and could be beneficial in reducing muscle damage associated with exercise. Chronic use of omega-3 supplements for 8 weeks ameliorates exercise-induced muscle damage. However, little evidence is available that acute consumption of omega-3 fatty acids post exercise is efficacious.

Recently, European investigators examined the efficacy of an acute dose of omega-3 fatty acids on muscle function following exercise-induced muscle damage, and asked whether a higher eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) fatty acid dose had additional benefit. This study was a double-blind, placebo-controlled study with 27 physically active men, mean age 26 years old. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups: high EPA – 750mg EPA and 50mg DHA; low EPA – 150mg EPA and 100 mg DHA; or placebo). Measurements were made beginning 1h after a bout of acute muscle-damaging exercise and repeated at 24h intervals up to 96h post-exercise.

The investigators found that individuals receiving the high EPA treatment subsequently performed better on the squat jump exercise test than those in the low EPA or placebo groups. Following exercise, the high dose EPA group experienced a 2.1% decrement in squat jump performance compared to an 8.3% and 9.8% decrement in squat jump performance for the low EPA and placebo groups, respectively, and similar findings showing a positive effect of high dose EPA were also observed when a countermovement jump exercise was performed.

This study of the acute effects of a fish oil supplement on exercise-induced muscle damage and subsequent exercise test performance indicates that an acute dose of 750mg EPA and 50mg DHA 1h after a bout of muscle-damaging exercise may help in healthy, trained, male athletes.

Source from: Jakeman JR et al. Effect of an acute dose of omega-3 fish oil following exercise-induced muscle damage. European journal of Applied Physiology. 2017; 117:575-582.