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Omega-3 Fish Oil & Weightlifting

By Derek Bryan

Omega-3 fish oil, found naturally in fish and in supplement form, provides omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat essential for healthy body function. Omega-3 fatty acids are well-known for their role in regulating blood clotting, maintaining brain cell membranes and their possible effectiveness in preventing certain diseases. Fish oil rich in omega-3 fats may also be effective in helping weightlifters train and recover.

Supplements Versus Natural Sources

Getting fish oil through natural sources rather than only taking supplements is better for weightlifters because most fish species high in omega-3 content are also high in protein, an important nutrient for muscle recovery. For example, a half fillet of farmed Atlantic salmon contains more than 40 grams of protein and approximately 3.8 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. However, if it is not possible to get omega-3 fats through food, fish oil supplements are a beneficial alternative.

Effects on Performance and Heart Health

Omega-3 fish oil could be beneficial in promoting cardiovascular performance during exercise. According to a study published in 2005 in the “Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” athletes who took 6 grams of fish oil per day demonstrated a lower heart rate during cardiovascular exercise. While weightlifting is an anaerobic exercise different than cardiovascular exercise, heart rate is still an important factor in performance. Both omega-3 fatty acids and weightlifting are shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Effects on Rate of Muscle Protein Synthesis

Muscle protein synthesis is responsible for repairing muscles and building bigger, stronger muscle tissue, making it an important factor for recovery. According to a study published in 2011 in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” daily supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids over the course of eight weeks resulted in an increase in muscle protein synthesis in adults aged 65 or older when high levels of insulin and amino acids were present. This means for older adults, supplementation of omega-3 fish oil in combination with sufficient carbohydrate and protein intake can result in superior muscle growth after a workout.

Anti-inflammatory Effects to Reduce Soreness

Omega-3 fatty acids also have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body that could be useful for weightlifters attempting to prevent or reduce muscle soreness after an intense workout. According to a study published in March 2009 in the “Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine,” individuals supplemented with 1.8 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day had reduced symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness 48 hours after exercise.

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