Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Physical Performance Optimization

Mickleborough, Timothy D.
February 2013
International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism;Feb2013, Vol. 23 Issue 1, p83
Academic Journal
Increased muscle oxidative stress and inflammatory responses among athletes have been reported consistently. In addition, it is well known that exhaustive or unaccustomed exercise can lead to muscle fatigue, delayed-onset muscle soreness, and a decrement in performance. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been shown to decrease the production of inflammatory eicosanoids, cytokines, and reactive oxygen species; have immunomodulatory effects; and attenuate inflammatory diseases. While a number of studies have assessed the efficacy of omega-3 PUFA supplementation on red blood cell deformability, muscle damage, inflammation, and metabolism during exercise, only a few have evaluated the impact of omega-3 PUFA supplementation on exercise performance. It has been suggested that the ingestion of EPA and DHA of approximately 1-2 g/d, at a ratio of EPA to DHA of 2:1, may be beneficial in counteracting exercise-induced inflammation and for the overall athlete health. However, the human data are inconclusive as to whether omega-3 PUFA supplementation at this dosage is effective in attenuating the inflammatory and immunomodulatory response to exercise and improving exercise performance. Thus, attempts should be made to establish an optimal omega-3 fatty-acid dosage to maximize the risk-to-reward ratio of supplementation. It should be noted that high omega-3 PUFA consumption may lead to immunosuppression and prolong bleeding time. Future studies investigating the efficacy of omega-3 PUFA supplementation in exercise-trained individuals should consider using an exercise protocol of sufficient duration and intensity to produce a more robust oxidative and inflammatory response.


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