Athletes use nutrition strategies to improve training through increasing metabolic capacity, delaying muscle fatigue, and improving muscle hypertrophy. As a bodybuilder, your training, nutrition, and supplement regimen can become quite rigorous and cumbersome. Fish oil is often one of the supplements suggested by bodybuilding coaches for several reasons, mainly the anti-inflammatory properties, and the valuable benefits that come along with omega-3 essential fatty acids, like joint, brain, and heart health. We’re going to dig into the benefits of fish oil for bodybuilding and why you should be taking an omega-3 supplement when you’re prepping to get on stage.
What Is Fish Oil
Fish oil is a dietary supplement commonly derived from fatty fish sources such as herring, halibut, salmon, and mackerel. Fish oil is rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which have been shown to have several significant health benefits, impartially on heart health, joint health, brain function, and even athletic performance in several different capacities.
Omega-3 is essential, meaning that you must obtain it from either your food, or a dietary supplement. When you’re prepping for a bodybuilding show, especially when you are 6-8 weeks out and cutting, your diet will call for significantly less fat, lower carbohydrates, and higher protein intakes. Adding healthy omega-3 fats to your diet is critical to supplement for the low levels of fat in your diet.
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Fish Oil Benefits For Bodybuilders
Before we get into the benefits of fish oil for bodybuilders, it is important to realize that fish oil is derived from Omega-3. The real benefit you’re getting is from the essential fatty acids DHA and EPA found in fish oil, not necessarily fish oil itself. There are several other types of omega-3 supplements, such as cod liver, flax seed oil, and krill oil. Studies suggest that Krill Oil oil derived from a tiny shrimp like sea crustacean, is a far superior form of omega-3 due to its natural antioxidant content and powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Compared to Fish Oil, Krill Oil is absorbed 68% better than fish oil and is metabolized within 2-3 hours, whereas Fish Oil is utilized between 48-72 hours.
1. Improves Athletic Performance
Evidence suggests that omega-3 can aid in athletic performance a potential therapeutic agent for ergogenic benefits. Astaxanthin a naturally occurring antioxidant in krill oil has been shown to reduce muscle damage, increase power output and even increase strength and maximize endurance capacity [R, R, R]
Other investigational studies have concluded that supplementation with Omega-3s, may increase peak torque, increase muscle strength, maximal oxygen uptake (VO2) and reduce muscle fatigue and soreness [R,R,R,R]. These findings suggest that supplementing with 500mg of omega-3 per day, can have a significant effect on training performance [R].
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2. May Improve Body Composition
Cutting body fat when you get closer to show time, is a vitally important factor in your overall performance on stage. Studies have shown that fish oil benefits bodybuilding by decreasing fat free mass and helping improve body composition.
A study published in the Journal Of The International Society Of Sports Nutrition investigated the effects of fish oil on resting metabolic rate (RMR) and body composition. 44 men were allocated 4g of safflower oil or 4g of fish oil per day for six weeks. The study concluded that fish oil significantly increased lean muscle mass and decreased fat mass [R].
A recent conducted by Department of Comparative Biosciences at the University of Wisconsin in Madison investigated the effects of Krill Oil on mTOR signaling and resistance training. Signaling through the mammalian target of rapamycin [mTOR] is activated by amino acids, insulin, and growth factors, and impaired by nutrient or energy deficiency. mTOR regulates numerous components involved in muscle protein synthesis [R] and can lead to greater gains in lean muscle mass.
A study published in the journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that krill oil significantly helped increase strength and lean body mass with 8 weeks of supplementation paired with a periodized resistance training program [R].
3. May Reduce Muscle Soreness And Improve Recovery
Recovery is a fundamental element to muscle hypertrophy and performance. Research has shown several positive benefits of fish oil on recovery, in relation to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and improving recovery times, by decreasing indicators of muscle damage. DOMS can result in a severe decrease in muscle strength, limited range of motion, and muscle damage created by micro-damage to muscle fibers and the body’s natural inflammatory response. Studies suggest that EPA and DHA can contribute to reduced muscle damage. However, Astaxanthin, found in Krill Oil, has been shown to reduce muscle damage, without the contrasting results found with research involving fish oil. Krill Oil has also been shown to improve postexercise immune system function and diminish post workout oxidative damage during recovery [R, R]
4. Improves Joint Health
Let’s be real honest here. If you are prepping for a bodybuilding show, then chances are you’re taking some gear, which can have a severe negative impact on your joints.
The anti-inflammatory effects of Omega-3 can help reduce chronic inflammation of the tendons and joints, which can cause detrimental effects to your overall quality of life. In a randomized, double blind placebo-controlled trial by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 90 patients were recruited with rheumatoid and or osteoarthritis to evaluate the effectiveness of krill oil on arthritic symptoms. The results were astounding. After seven days of treatment with a dose of 300mg of administered krill oil, patients reported reduced pain scores by 28.9%, reduced stiffness by 20.3%, and reduced functional impairment by 22.8% [R].
Recommended Dose Of Fish Oil For Bodybuilders
In regard to muscle recovery, studies use an average of 3-6g of fish oil per day, in comparison to 1-3g of Krill Oil, roughly half the amount [R, R]. Research investigating muscle strength and mTOr signaling pathways for the facilitation of muscle protein synthesis, show 2-3g per day is sufficient, with 5g as an upper threshold. Although the scientific research supporting the use of fish oil for bodybuilding is limited, you may still want to consider supplementing with an Omega-3 if your diet is low in healthy fats and food sources containing omega-3 fatty acids.
Fish Oil For Bodybuilders: Takeaway
Fish oil has been shown to provide bodybuilders with a wide range of potential health benefits, such as reduced muscle soreness, increased strength, improved body composition, and enhanced peak power output. The evidence suggests that essential omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA are largely responsible for the therapeutic effects and ergogenic benefits of fish oil. Krill Oil has been shown to be a far superior form of Omega-3 and contains a powerful antioxidant, Astaxanthin, which further reduces oxidative damage and the inflammatory response, in half the dose. No matter the supplement you decide to use, omega-3’s are largely beneficial for bodybuilders and overall training and performance.
Ready To Add An Omega-3 Supplement To Your Bodybuilding Protocol To Help Your Performance And Training?
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