Bodybuilders will likely follow a careful diet and a rigorous exercise routine to achieve their muscle building goals. There are a wide range of nutritional supplements and dietary guidelines that can aid bodybuilders on this journey. One such supplement that they might consider is fish oil.
Fish oil is a popular dietary supplement and a powerful source of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids can help protect against heart disease and inflammation. Its supporters also suggest that they can help increase muscle strength and improve physical performance.
In this article, we will discuss fish oil and its possible benefits for bodybuilders. We are also investigating potential risks and suggesting other bodybuilding supplements that people might consider.
Fish oil is a dietary supplement made from fatty fish such as sardines, salmon, mackerel, tuna, and herring.
Manufacturers can use many different methods to harvest fish oil. However, most techniques typically involve a four-step process in which the final product is cooked, pressed, filtered, and centrifuged.
Fish oils contain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids (PUFAs). These are
essential fatty acids that the body cannot make for itself. The three primary omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and its metabolites docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
While vegetables and other plant-based foods can contain ALA, the body cannot use it as easily as DHA or EPA. Since fish is a rich source of food for DHA and EPA, people can consume fish to increase the levels of these omega-3 fatty acids. Those who do not consume fish regularly may consider taking fish oil supplements.
These fatty acids can play several essential roles in the body, including:
- Cell membrane function, structure and signaling
- Regulation of the nervous system
- Blood pressure control
- Blood clotting
- Glucose tolerance
- inflammatory processes
In addition, these fatty acids can also affect skeletal muscle metabolism and functional response after exercise.
Fish oil can offer a variety of potential bodybuilding benefits. This can include:
Reduces muscle soreness
If a person exercises vigorously or uses a new routine, they will likely feel sore muscles and stiffness later or the next day. Delayed sore muscles (DOMS) is a common problem that researchers suspect may be related to microscopic tears in the muscles and inflammation.
Bodybuilders are likely to experience DOMS due to strenuous exercise routines. While massage can help, a 2017 study suggests that fish oil can relieve muscle soreness. Another 2017 study also found that DHA and EPA supplements can help reduce muscle damage after exercise.
Improves the training quality
The EPA and DHA contained in fish oil can help increase athletic performance. During or after heavy workouts, the anti-inflammatory properties of these omega-3 fatty acids can protect against a decline in strength, flexibility, and range of motion.
In a small 2018 study, men who took 2,400 milligrams (mg) of fish oil, which contains 600 mg of EPA and 260 mg of DHA, daily for 8 weeks showed less muscle swelling than men who took a placebo.
In a small 2019 study, men on an energy-limited diet consumed 4,000 mg of fish oil that contained 2,000 mg of EPA and DHA. The results show that supplementing with these fatty acids can maintain or even improve lower body muscle strength.
Research is somewhat limited, however, and more evidence is needed to prove whether fish oil supplements promote muscle growth or maintain lean muscle mass.
Prevents muscle loss through aging
Everyone naturally loses muscle mass as they age, which doctors call sarcopenia. Once people are 30 years old, research suggests that muscle mass decreases by 0.1-0.5% every year, and even more after they turn 65.
A 2015 study shows that PUFAs can help slow this natural decline in muscle mass and function in older adults. The study also finds that fish oils can be beneficial in preventing sarcopenia and maintaining physical independence in older adults.
Older people may find it more difficult to build muscle. This is because your body doesn’t respond as well to weight training and protein intake. However, the anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil can counteract this effect in some populations.
Fish oil can also make muscles more sensitive to protein and weight training. A 2017 study suggests that supplementing 4,200 mg of omega-3 fatty acids with 2,700 mg of EPA and 1,200 mg of EPA increases the synthesis of new muscle protein in older adults.
Although these results suggest potential benefits for older bodybuilders, more research is needed to confirm whether fish oil helps in building and maintaining muscle.
Although fish oil is a natural and popular product, people should research the potential risks before starting any new supplementation system.
While the research is inconsistent, some studies suggest a possible link between omega-3 fatty acids and prostate cancer. A 2013 study showed an increased risk of prostate cancer in men with higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
There can also be uncomfortable mild side effects from using fish oil. These can be:
DOMS is a painful consequence of bodybuilding, and fish oil appears to relieve symptoms. However, the effects on strength and muscle size are not fully understood.
Whether or not someone should supplement with fish oil depends on their circumstances. In general, taking fish oil can be beneficial as it can help with various health conditions such as improving heart health.
When considering dosage, there is no absolute rule as to the amount of omega-3 fatty acids someone will need. Many studies use amounts between 1,000 and 5,000 mg. The European Food Safety Authority states that people can take EPA and DHA supplements in a combined dose of up to 5,000 mg daily.
However, because of the potential for side effects, the guidelines recommend starting with a low dose before increasing it to a more typical amount.
There are a number of supplements that claim to improve bodybuilding performance. These include:
Alternatively, a diet high in protein and other nutrients from eggs, fish, meat, dairy products, vegetables, beans, and legumes can help the individual achieve their bodybuilding goals.
Fish oil is a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Bodybuilders may find fish oil supplementation beneficial as it can help reduce DOMS and increase muscle strength and range of motion. However, more research is needed to support these claims.
While the side effects are often minor, the recommendations suggest that people consider the possible link between fish oil and prostate cancer.
With that in mind, it may be best to consult a doctor before taking any supplements. Additionally, some people may not need nutritional supplements and instead may experience sufficient fish oils from their diet.