According to research published in the FASEB journal, omega-3s help prevent muscle loss, making omega-3 an excellent supplement for exercise recovery. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that cannot be manufactured by the body.
Instead, our body must get omega-3 fatty acids from the food that we eat. Foods that contain high amounts of omega-3 include flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, fatty fish, fish oil, krill oil, and flaxseed oil.
10 Potential Benefits of Omega-3
- Reduces Depression
- Combats Diabetes
- Improves Energy Levels
- Reduces Exercise Fatigue
- Reduces Inflammation
- Improves Heart Health
- Aids Muscle Growth
- Improves Strength
- Reduces Blood Pressure
- Improves Bone Strength
Omega-3 and Muscle Loss
A recent study analyzed muscle loss in a group of 20 young females. The researchers divided the women into two groups: one group took 5 grams of omega-3, while the other group took 5 grams of sunflower oil.
After 4-weeks, the researchers immobilized the female participants using a knee brace on one leg to mimic how you would behave if you had an injury. The immobilization period lasted for 2-weeks, after which the female participants resumed regular activity.
At the end of the study, the researchers found that the women who took omega-3 experienced less muscle loss than the women who took a placebo. Research conducted by McMaster University also discovered that omega-3s help people retain more muscle mass and strength, even when not exercising for extended periods.
A person can lead a sedentary lifestyle for a variety of reasons. For instance, an injury can keep you on the shelf for months at a time, or perhaps your job has you stuck behind a desk or on the road.
Furthermore, as people become older, they often become less active and more sedentary. The problem with being inactive is that your health often suffers as a result. A dwindling supply of muscle mass and weak muscles are just two of the many side effects of a sedentary lifestyle. In combination with the right supplements and a healthy diet, exercise is critical for maintaining muscle mass and fitness levels.
Omega-3 and Exercise Performance
When you engage in exercise, your body undergoes pressure and stress. This stress stimulates muscle protein synthesis, which allows you to build muscle and get stronger. If you fail to recover from exercise, you increase the risk of injury since your body doesn’t have a chance to adapt to exercise stress.
As omega-3s regulate the mTOR pathway, fatty acids reduce the activity of NF-κB (a protein that controls cell survival), reducing muscle protein breakdown. Omega-3s further improve muscle metabolism by enhancing sensitivity to anabolic stimuli such as exercise, protein intake, and increased insulin levels.
Omega-3s for Muscle and Strength
People often take omega-3 supplements to reduce heart disease, lower blood pressure, and stave off a bit of depression. It’s unfortunate, however, that omega-3s are often under-appreciated when it comes to building muscle and preventing muscle loss due to inactivity.
During the day, your body is in either one of two states: an anabolic state or a catabolic state. An anabolic state is when your body builds muscle; a catabolic state is when your body breaks down muscle. Combining the three factors of strength training, increased protein intake, and omega-3 intake improves muscle protein synthesis rates, which promotes muscle and strength development.
Types of Omega-3
The omega-3 family has many fatty acids (about 11 different types in total), but the three most important fatty acids are EPA, ALA, and DHA.
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)
EPA is a 20-carbon long quintessential omega-3 fatty acid. The body uses EPA to produce eicosanoids, which are signaling molecules responsible for several physiological activities. These molecules are also known to inhibit inflammation.
Foods high in EPA (such as fish oil) are backed by clinical studies, which show that fatty acids are also beneficial when it comes to reducing symptoms of depression.
The following fatty fish have high concentrations of EPA:
ALA (Alpha-Linoleic Acid)
ALA is the most common omega-3 fatty acid. This 18-carbon long fatty acid is often found in plant-based foods and is a crucial source of energy. However, the human body can only covert a small percentage of ALA. The remaining unconverted ALA becomes fat, which is turned into energy. The following plant-based foods contain high amounts of ALA omega-3 fatty acids:
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)
DHA is critical for the maintenance of healthy skin and is also known to improve eyesight and slow degeneration of the eyes’ retinas. DHA omega-3 deficiency is associated with problems such as ADHD, aggression, hostility, and learning disabilities. Furthermore, a decrease in DHA can result in the early onset of Alzheimer’s as well as poor cognition.
Patients who have arthritis, high blood pressure, some types of cancer, and Type 2 diabetes should maintain adequate amounts of DHA by taking omega-3 supplements.
Safety and Side Effects
According to the National Institute of Health, omega-3 supplements are safe for everyone unless you have an allergy to shellfish or other types of fish. However, you must be careful not to go crazy and take high doses of omega-3 unless cleared by your doctor first, as high levels of omega-3 can have a blood-thinning effect.
If you want to boost your health, 3 grams of omega-3s per day is sufficient. If you’re searching for a way to retain muscle mass and strength, while suffering through a period of inactivity, you might want to increase your daily dose of omega-3 to 6 grams per day.
Effectiveness of Omega-3s
Whether you’re an older person worried about muscle loss or someone who is interested in reaching their health and fitness goals, omega-3 fatty acids can help support your body and prevent muscle atrophy.
Current research supports Omega-3s validity, and omega-3 is critical to the optimal functioning of the body. As a result, athletes and fitness enthusiasts who participate in strenuous exercise and resistance training should take omega-3 supplements if they don’t eat at least two servings of omega-3-rich foods per week.