Beyond many great health benefits, recent research suggests that taking fish oil supplements can boost exercise performance. In a recent study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, Japanese researchers hypothesized that since eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (found in fish oil) act as “blood thinners” (i.e., decrease blood viscosity), then it may improve blood flow/oxygen supply to tissues and increase exercise performance. In this double-blinded and placebo-controlled study, twenty fit college aged male volunteers were to instructed to take either 3.6 g of fish oil or a placebo split into 3 daily doses, for 56 days. Prior to and after 8 weeks supplementation, subjects completed a series of VO2max (maximum aerobic fitness) tests and submaximal exercise tests.
As predicted, the researchers found that fish oil supplementation increased red blood cell EPA and DHA content and decreased oxygen consumption during steady-state submaximal exercise. They also reported that subjects who took fish oil had reduced measures of perceived exertion—meaning that the exercise “felt” easier when they took fish oil. Overall, the authors concluded that fish oil supplementation improves exercise efficiency, which may also promote greater exercise endurance capacity.
ACTION POINT: To get all the health and performance benefits of fish oil supplementation, we suggest taking 1-2g of fish oil 3 to 4 times daily with meals.
Kawabata F1, Neya M, Hamazaki K, Watanabe Y, Kobayashi S, Tsuji T. Supplementation with eicosapentaenoic acid-rich fish oil improves exercise economy and reduces perceived exertion during submaximal steady-state exercise in normal healthy untrained men. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2014 Dec;78(12):2081-8.