Omega-3 fat often found in Fish oil capsules has been around for decades and there are many claims regarding the ‘healthy fat’. They say it can fight depression, reduce risk of heart disease, improve bone and joint health and lower inflammation.
But can it reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)?
Every repair in the body starts with inflammation, and inflammation has an important role in muscle repair and muscle soreness (read more about that HERE).
Omega-3 is known to reduce inflammation [2,3,4,12,13,15], it does that by promoting the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines and inhibit the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Studies show that when participants use Omega-3 capsules the concentration of TNF, CRP and IL-6 (all associated with inflammation) lowers. Besides omega-3 also seems to attenuate muscle damage (likely due to a lower inflammatory response) this is shown by lower levels of Myoglobin and Creatine Kinase in the bloodstream. The Myoglobin and Creatine Kinase sit inside the muscle fibers and end up in the bloodstream when the muscle fiber gets damaged, bloodsamples are therefore often used by scientists to measure muscle damage.
Not every omega fat reduces inflammation, Omega-6 for instance fires up inflammation thereby known to be pro-inflammatory [2,4]. Omega-6 is found in red meat and scientist think we consume to much omega-6 relative to omega-3. They say that the ratio between the two is very important . We should eat more fish (which contains omega-3) and/or use supplements to improve the ratio. If you want to use fish oil supplements, find one with only omega-3 and without omega-6.
Reduce muscle soreness?
I found 9 studies where scientist tested the ability of omega-3 to reduce muscle soreness and the studies produce mixed results.
Positive effects were found in studies: 1,7,10,11 and 14
Whereas no effects were found in studies: 5, 6, 8 and 9.
So there is a slight advantage for the positive effects.
All studies used eccentric weight exercises to elicit muscle soreness and used dosage between 360mg to 3000mg (most studies that produced a positive effect used 3000mg).
So omega-3 capsules could attenuate muscle soreness, but the results are not consistent. There are better ways to reduce muscle soreness, read more about it HERE.
But omega-3 fat has lots of other health benefits and because most of us don’t consume enough omega-3 rich food it’s probably a good idea to increase omega-3 intake by taking supplements.
1 The Effects of Ingestion of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Perceived Pain and External Symptoms of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness in Untrained Men
2 Fatty acids from fish: the anti-inflammatory potential of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids
3 Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory processes: nutrition or pharmacology?
4 Omega-3 Fatty Acids Associates with Decreased Pain, Independent of Inflammation, in MTX Treated Early RA Patients
5 The effects of fish oil and isoflavones on delayed onset muscle soreness
6 Fish Oil Supplementation Reduces Markers of Oxidative Stress but Not Muscle Soreness after Eccentric Exercise
7 Effects of Fish Oil Supplementation on Postresistance Exercise Muscle Soreness
8 Effects of High Dose Fish Oil Supplementation on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (Doms) and Inflammatory Markers
9 Can a standard dose of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) supplementation reduce the symptoms of delayed onset of muscle soreness?
10 Erratum to: Eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids-rich fish oil supplementation attenuates strength loss and limited joint range of motion after eccentric contractions: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial.
11 Effects of Short-Term Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation on Markers of Inflammation after Eccentric Strength Exercise in Women.
12 Docosahexaenoic acid affects markers of inflammation and muscle damage after eccentric exercise.
13 A dietary supplement attenuates IL-6 and CRP after eccentric exercise in untrained males.
14 The Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation on the Inflammatory Response to eccentric strength exercise.
15 Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation attenuates inflammatory markers after eccentric exercise in untrained men