Omega-3 Fatty acid supplements have been one of the most popular dietary supplements on the market for many years, and the market boasts a huge array of fish, krill and other marine oils, and vegetarian alternatives, rich in long chain fatty acids. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EHA), the major beneficial fatty acids in these supplements, have been lauded for their use in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, nervous system health, joint pain, and a number of other conditions. Underpinning many of these beneficial effects is the fact that these two fatty acids have powerful antiinflammatory action.
One manifestation of inflammation that all athletes are familiar with is the after-effects of exercise. Exercise damages the muscle fibres, and it is only during rest and recovery that these are repaired. This causes many symptoms such as reduced muscle strength and range of motion, and delayed onset muscle soreness. These symptoms are not only uncomfortable, but can keep athletes away from training, which can slow progress, so science has been looking for an answer.
A group in the US has demonstrated that long chain fatty acid DHA is useful in minimising these after effects of exercise.
41 Untrained men were randomly selected to take either 2g of DHA or placebo per day for a month before embarking on an exercise phase that lasted 17 days. During this time, a number of measurements were taken. The men were tested for strength and range of movement, and were asked to report levels of muscle soreness. On top of this, blood samples were taken to measure levels of creatine kinase (CK), an indicator of muscle damage, c-reactive protein (CRP), an indicator of inflammation, IL-6, an inflammatory marker that is released during exercise, and IL-1 receptor antagonist, which is also associated with exercise and released in response to IL-1, a proinflammatory cytokine.
The results showed that DHA supplementation reduced some, but not all indicators of muscle damage and inflammation over the course of this experiment. Those men who received the DHA treatment showed lower levels of CK and 1L-6 in the acute exercise phase, and lower CK levels overall. On top of this, the DHA group reported lower levels of delayed onset muscle soreness over the 17 days of the exercise trial.
It is clear that DHA was able to exert a significant protective effect on the muscles during exercise. Anyone who suffers soreness after exercise, which let's face it, includes any of us who are doing it properly, is well advised to consider using omega-3, the supplement that does everything!
DiLorenzo FM, Drager CJ, Rankin JW. DOCOSAHEXAENOIC ACID AFFECTS MARKERS OF INFLAMMATION AND MUSCLE DAMAGE AFTER ECCENTRIC EXERCISE. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jul 15.