Yet Another Great Fitness Benefit to Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation
Dwayne N. Jackson, PhD
Over the past decade, numerous studies have praised fish oil for its many health and exercise benefits. The omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish have been shown to reduce inflammation, increase cardiovascular health, increase the efficiency of the heart during exercise, maintain healthy blood lipid profiles, increase fat metabolism, and boost lean mass gain.
Recently, a team of researchers from the University of Toronto have revealed yet another great fitness benefit to omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. In this randomized and placebo controlled trial, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers sought to evaluate the effect of short-term seal oil supplementation on neuromuscular-function and physical-performance in highly trained athletes (described as young men who have trained in summer Olympic strength sports for greater than12-hours per week for more than 2 years). Participants ingested seal omega-3 oil twice daily (5 g total, combined with 1000 iu vitamin D3) or an olive oil placebo (with 1000 iu vitamin D3 added), for 21 days during training. Athletes were tested for maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) of quadriceps and muscle activation (EMG), and anaerobic power (Wingate) before and after 21 days supplementation. The authors reported that subjects who received the mammalian omega-3 oil supplement had up to a 24% increased muscle activation during contraction and 12% less fatigue during anaerobic power testing versus placebo.
ACTION POINT: Although the mechanisms for these novel effects remain to be elucidated, the results from this study are likely due to omega-3’s effects on acetylcholine (the primary neurotransmitter for muscle contraction) bioavailability and/or improved motor nerve conduction. To take advantage of all the health and exercise benefits of fish oil, take 1 to 3 grams of high DHA and EPA fish oil with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Lewis EJ, Radonic PW, Wolever TM, Wells GD. 21 days of mammalian omega-3 fatty acid supplementation improves aspects of neuromuscular function and performance in male athletes compared to olive oil placebo. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Jun 18;12:28.
Most high performance sports involve skills that require focus and split second decision-making. However, research shows that there is a decline in cognitive processing associated with fatiguing exercise. Since reaction time, focus, and movement accuracy are cognitive tasks that contribute to exercise performance, then finding a supplement that keeps our brains on task when we are going all out would be a significant advantage. This is especially true for tournament athletes who compete several times per day.
The magic bullet might be right under our noses….
Scientists from Taiwan recently investigated the effect of a supplement stack of BCAAs (0.17 g/kg), arginine (0.05 g/kg), and citrulline (0.05 g/kg) on “brain fade” after three simulated matches in high-performance taekwondo athletes. They reported that when participants received the supplement stack they maintained cognitive performance throughout all three simulated matches (measured by validated taekwondo-specific reaction tests). In contrast, when subjects received the placebo there was a significant decline in cognitive performance. Beyond increases in cognitive performance, the BCAA, arginine, and citrulline stack resulted in a doubling of blood nitrate/nitrite levels versus placebo— indicating a huge boost (a doubling) in blood nitric oxide levels! We all know nitric oxide is important for promoting increased blood flow to working muscle resulting in increased nutrient delivery, waste removal, and incredible pumps.
ACTION POINT: Stacking BCAAs, arginine, and citrulline is something we have promoted for years, now you have one more reason to include these key supplements in your regimen. For best results take: 5-10 g BCAAs, 4-5 g L-arginine, and 4-6 g citrulline malate 30-60 minutes preworkout.
Chen IF, Wu HJ, Chen CY, Chou KM, Chang CK. Branched-chain amino acids, arginine, citrulline alleviate central fatigue after 3 simulated matches in taekwondo athletes: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016 Jul 13;13:28