Meta-Analysis: Omega-3 Supplementation Reduces Markers of Inflammation and Muscle Damage Post-Exercise, Improving Recovery

If you take your training seriously, then you've undoubtedly encountered the philosophy of "No Pain, No Gain." The idea is that you're not going to make any progress toward your physique and performance goals unless you push yourself to your limits and then some small stretch beyond them. This philosophy can also be brought to bear at the cellular level, in the notion that you have to break down some muscle tissue in order to build it back better, bigger and stronger.

Recover Faster and Grow Bigger with Omega-3sLike any simple maxim, this philosophy is true up to a point. Hard work has its rewards: if you're just going to coast along at minimal effort, you're never going to get anywhere. However, there is a point at which excessive workload and excessive damage becomes detrimental to your overall progress.

Injury is an obvious example. If you push yourself past your breaking point and suffer a severe injury, you're going to have to curtail or suspend entirely your training regimen and you're obviously going to lose ground in pursuit of your fitness goals.

Slowed, inefficient or incomplete recovery from exercise can also undermine your progress toward muscle size and strength gains. When you engage in strenuous resistance exercise, you damage muscle cells and inflammation occurs as your body directs increased blood flow to muscle tissue to replenish oxygen, fuel muscles, and clear out waste. Among these waste products generated by muscle stress are creatine kinase (CK), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), and myoglobin (Mb) concentrations leaked into the bloodstream.

These symptoms express themselves in the form of reduced range of motion, decreases in neuromuscular function, and extended periods of swelling, which can impair muscle function and inhibit the potential to engage in high‐intensity exercise on subsequent days.

You can ameliorate the counterproductive effects of this exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) by simply getting sufficient rest between bouts of exercise, so your body can fully recover. Problems result however if your muscles are recovering too slowly. Insufficiently recovered muscle tissue breaks down further and more swiftly during successive bouts of exercise, and both performance and subsequent growth is impeded.

Of course, you can attempt to push through these negative outcomes, but slow or incomplete recovery from high-intensity exercise can create a negative feedback loop in which strength and size gains are undermined by weakened cell function and decreased workload capacity.

So what is the solution? Well, you can get even more rest. Or you can incur less EIMD by training less aggressively. Or perhaps, as researchers are finding, you can turn to a powerful nutrient closely linked to anti-inflammatory properties, cell membrane integrity and muscle recovery.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Super-Versatile Wellness Nutrient

Fish oils rich in Omega-3 fatty acids are something of a wonder nutrient for typical health-conscious individuals and hard-training athletes alike. When untrained people go to the doctor and receive blood test results that suggest their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels are high or their blood pressure is borderline high, they are very likely -- at least in the beginning -- to receive a prescription for a high-quality fish oil supplement high in the fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), that may confer important health benefits.

What are these health benefits? Ongoing research suggests that in addition to potentially increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and lowering levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, Omega-3s may be helpful in regulating blood pressure, reducing plaque build-up in arteries, supporting bone health and improving immune function.

Some of these health benefits are still subject to further clinical investigation. Another robust area of clinical investigation involves the interaction between bodily inflammation and Omega-3 supplementation. And here, a recent meta-analysis of numerous studies suggests that hard-training athletes may accrue significant benefits from adding Omega-3s to their supplementation regimen.

Meta-Analysis of Omega-3 Studies Highlights Reduction of Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage

In this recent survey of studies (1 Gao Xin), published in the scientific journal Food Science & Nutrition, researchers considered randomized placebo-controlled trials published between 2002 and 2017 in which subjects were supplemented with Omega-3 fish oils or placebo and tested for creatine kinase (CK), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), and myoglobin (Mb) concentrations, all markers of EIMD and resulting inflammation.

"The aim of this review," the researchers stated, "was to assess whether Omega-3 consumption affected the response of muscle damage indicators to physical activity followed by the start of a training program. The current meta‐analysis results, conducted on 10 Research Control Trials, displayed beneficial effects of Omega-3 supplementation in reduction in EIMD indicators during exercise protocols of various periods."

This included significantly reduced levels of CK, LDH and Mb concentrations in all Omega-3 supplemented subjects, leading the researchers to conclude, "most of these studies suggested Omega-3 consumption attenuates the magnitude of the serum muscle enzymes response to damaging exercise, lower inflammatory response, and less myofibrillar disturbance."

Some studies suggested that, since docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are incorporated into phospholipids of muscle cell membrane, Omega-3s may help to improve muscle cells' membrane stability and subsequent lowered release of enzymes. Regardless, the researchers summed up their findings, stating that "outcomes within the current meta‐analysis indicate that Omega-3 supplementation is effective for alleviating EIMD after exercise muscle damage," and advised that "further studies with diverse dosages of Omega-3 and different exercise protocols are required to assess the best dosage and repetition per day for optimized recovery."

Super Pure and Potent Omega-3 Fish Oil

Superior-Quality Sources of Omega-3s Offer the Best Protection

Here's where we can offer a little of our own advice: Quality is of the essence. "Best dosage" involves seeking out the absolute highest-quality sourcing of Omega-3s possible. Many low-grade, supermarket-shelf fish oil products from generic manufacturers are rife with alarming levels of contamination and contain very little actual active-ingredient DHA and EPA.

ProSource’s own Omega-1250 has long been a quality leader in this category. It is derived from pure deep-sea, cold-water sources that are molecularly distilled and highly purified. Each softgel capsule contains an ultra-potent 750 mg of the highest quality Omega-3 fatty acids, including high amounts of EPA (450 mg) and DHA (300 mg).

ProSource has long recognized the critical health and exercise advantages provided by Omega-3s, and our super-premium fish oil supplement reflects that commitment. Reduce excessive muscle damage, shorten recovery, and pave the way to improved performance and greater results with pure, premium-grade Omega-3s.

Scientific References
1 Gao Xin and Hesam Eshaghi. Effect of omega‐3 fatty acids supplementation on indirect blood markers of exercise‐induced muscle damage: Systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Food Sci Nutr. 2021 Nov; 9(11): 6429–6442.

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