Omega -3 Fatty Acids & Exercise #fitnessfriday

Omega -3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have been extensively researched for it's

anti-inflammatory properties and protective effects

on many diseases including heart disease, stroke, arthritis, dementia, asthma just to name a few. It is an

essential fatty acid

 meaning our body cannot make them and have to be taken via food or supplements. There is an increasing trend of omega-3 fatty acid use among exercise enthusiast particularly to counteract exercise-induced inflammation and for the 

overall muscle health which got me curious to find out more on this topic and share with you guys. 

images via google

There are two major types of omega-3 fatty acids : alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is found in some vegetable oils, such as soybeans, rapeseeds (canola), flaxseeds, walnuts, and some green vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, kale, and spinach. The other type, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is found in cold water fatty fish such as salmon and tuna. Our body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA. ALA is efficiently converted to EPA, but it may require large amounts of ALA to produce optimal amounts of DHA.


Omega-3 fatty acids can also be obtained through supplements such as fish oil. I have also seen it in the form of salmon oil and vegetarian omega-3 fatty acids. 

Some research on omega-3 fatty acids & exercise: 


Studies have suggested that ingestion of omega-3 fatty acids can be effective in 


delayed onset muscle soreness

induced by eccentric exercise (


). Another study reported a similar response where 

omega-3 supplementation

decreased muscle soreness

after high-intensity exercise (




 Supplementation of 1.75 g/day 

EPA and 1.05 g/day DHA for 3 weeks

reduced the rise 

in acute-phase proteins

that occur after exercise (



Study by 

Bloomer et. al (


) found that the EPA/DHA 

supplementation significantly increased plasma levels of EPA and DHA 

fatty acids and significantly reduced resting levels 

of inflammatory biomarkers 


did not have any significant effect on 

exercise-induced inflammation or oxidative stress. 


Some other notable findings include a trend in 

improvement in exercise time, 

improved cardiovascular efficiency

exercise (





mega-3 may have some

potential to enhance 

the decision-making abilities of athletes

who engage in 

sports performed in extreme and stressful environmental 

conditions (e.g., altitude, extreme heat or cold) (



Even though some studies have shown the efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids on exercise, at present the data is still


as to whether omega-3 fatty acids in effective in enhancing exercise performance. Studies mentioned above are a part of a review, for more details and limitations on the study please check each study individually. 

How much omega-3 fatty acid do I need? 

The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults (18 and older) needs to eat 

fish at least twice weekly.

The recommended amount of EPA and DHA is 0.3-0.5 grams and ALA intake of 0.8-1.1 grams daily. 

A 6 oz. portion of wild salmon contains 883 mg of EPA and 1,111 mg of DHA. 2-3 servings a week of salmon would be adequate for most people.

The average American consumes about 1.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily. About 1.4 grams of this comes from ALA, while 0.1-0.2 grams from EPA and DHA (Source). 

Are Omega-3 fatty acid supplements better for me? 

When possible, try to get omega-3 fatty acids from foods rather than supplements.

This article

explains in more detail. E

xamples of fatty fish includes: 





salmon (wild has more omega-3s than farmed), 



lake trout, and 

tuna. However, some of these fish such as mackerel, wild sword fish, and shark are likely to have 

higher levels of mercury, PCBs, or other toxins which should be avoided by pregnant women and children. 

Before starting omega-3 supplement, I recommend consulting your physician for a specific dose depending upon your health and other medications you are taking.

People with heart disease are usually advised to take 1 gram (1,000 milligrams) daily of DHA and EPA combined from fish oil while some people with some health conditions may take doses of up to 4 grams a day only under a doctor's supervision. What if I am vegan/vegetarian? Without proper meal planning, vegans and vegetarians can have low intake of omega-3 fatty acids. This is when supplementing your diet is a good idea. Here is a really good article on choosing the right kind of omega-3 supplement.

Do you guys take omega-3 supplements or eat fish on a regular basis?

Have you noticed any impact on your athletic performance after taking omega-3 fatty acids?

Fitness Friday Posts from the Past: Fitness Friday: Q & A (1)On Staying Active {Guest Post}Finding the Right ShoeMeet Megan RD from Nutrition Awareness{Guest Post}Fitness Friday: Q & A (2)Meet Shashi from RunninSrilankan{Guest Post} Incorporate Yoga Daily with Amelia {Guest Post}Gym vs No GymUsing a Foam Roller for StretchingMy Favorite Home WorkoutThe Active-Guy Gift Guide {Guest Post}Protein Supplements : Do I Need It?