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Does Fish Oil Enhance Exercise Performance?

fish oil capsules arranged to look like a fish

Fish oil is widely consumed for its reputed benefits in reducing inflammation, supporting cardiovascular health, and enhancing brain function. However, a recent study set out to investigate whether fish oil supplementation could also impact resistance training adaptations, specifically in terms of strength gains and muscle growth.

The study involved twenty-eight young participants, consisting of both males (n = 12) and females (n = 16). They were randomly divided into two groups: a fish oil group (n=14) and a control group (n=14). Each group was instructed to consume seven daily capsules. The fish oil group was provided with a high-strength fish oil product (Nordic Naturals ProOmega), which contained 2.3 g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 1.6 g of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Importantly, participants were advised to maintain their regular diet and record their food intake throughout the study. It is worth noting that there were no significant differences in caloric or macronutrient intake between the two groups. This is noteworthy since both calorie and protein intake have been linked to strength and muscle development.

Over the course of ten weeks, all participants engaged in a full-body resistance training program, working out three nonconsecutive days per week. The training protocol included seven exercises per session: barbell back squat, leg press, leg extension/leg curl, barbell bench press, shoulder press, seated cable row, and wide-grip lat pulldown. Each exercise was performed for 3–4 sets of 8–12 repetitions, with rest intervals of 90–120 seconds.

At the conclusion of the program, all participants underwent bench press and squat one-rep max testing. The results indicated that the fish oil group exhibited a significant improvement in bench press strength compared to the control group.

Additionally, the fish oil group showed greater improvements in squat performance and fat mass reduction compared to the control group. However, it is important to note that these findings did not reach statistical significance, likely due to the relatively small sample size.

While these results suggest that fish oil supplementation may offer a slight advantage in the weight room, it is crucial to manage your expectations. If you already consume a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, you may not experience any noticeable effects from fish oil supplementation alone. Moreover, it is essential to prioritize other factors that significantly impact strength and muscle development, such as proper exercise programming, adequate recovery (including sleep), and appropriate protein and calorie intake.

When considering supplementation options, it is worth noting that creatine supplementation has more robust research support and is generally more cost-effective than fish oil. Therefore, if you have already addressed these foundational elements of your training and nutrition, incorporating fish oil supplementation might be worth considering.

Ultimately, it is crucial to prioritize obtaining polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) through a balanced diet and to focus on consistent, intense training to achieve your fitness goals.


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