Thursday, October 11, 2012

Can Omega-3 fats aid performance?

Omega-3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat found naturally in fish oils, which have long been thought to be good for general health.  There are claims that it improves everything from brain function, to cardiovascular health, but does it give athletes an edge?

A recent study found that Omega-3 fatty acids may increase physical conditioning by improving the efficiency of the cardiorespiratory system.  Basically, if you supplement your diet with fish oils it can help your heart, lungs and arteries to function better, which means that athletic performance can be improved.

Omega-3 fatty acids:
  • may help to reduce inflammation
  • lower heart rates while performing at high levels
  • decrease blood pressure
  • increase blood flow
Participants in the study had significantly reduced heart rates as well as a lowered steady-state submaximal heart rate and oxygen consumption; this means that the athletes taking fish oils had a lower heart rate during exercise.  Experts believe that this is because the fish oils enable the cardiorespiratory system to work more efficiently and deliver oxygen around the body better.

Supplementing your diet with fish oils may help performance but it is generally a good idea to get your nutrients from food.  Mackerel, salmon, trout, herring, sardines and pilchards are particularly good sources. Although these studies seem promising, more is not necessarily better so make sure to do your research and talk to your doctor before supplementing your diet with fish oils.

References from the SIRC Collection: 

1.Brown K. The Manipulated Food Chain: You Are What You Eat, Eats. NSCA's Performance Training Journal. November 2010;9(6):6-7.
2. Cox G. Omega-3 fatty acids : are they important in your diet?. Run For Your Life: R4YL. April 2008;(17):28-30.
3. Omega-3s might enhance the effects of strength training. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter. April 2012;30(2):5.
4. Pase M. Fats are your friends: learning the value of omega-3 fats. Running Times. April 2002;(295):12.
5. Seebohar B. PERFORMANCE BENEFITS OF OMEGA-3 FATS. Triathlon Life. Spring2009 2009;12(2):44.
6. Wein D, Riley C. Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Inflammation, and Recovery in Athletes. NSCA's Performance Training Journal. April 2012;11(2):8-9.

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