The benefits of fish oil consumption have been expounded upon for years; it is now well-established to promote heart health, cognitive function and support the wellness of your joints. However, studies that demonstrate clear benefit and exercise performance have been limited, and a mixed bag to say the least.
Researchers in Japan who conducted a review of the simultaneous consumption of EPA and DHA from fish oil have stated that they do have a possible synergistic effect on physical performance, but more studies are needed to clarify findings.
Researchers from Japan's Hosei University and Teikyo University reviewed studies that investigated the effects of simultaneous consumption on muscle mass and strength, as well as nerve and muscle damage amelioration.
Their findings on the effects of supplementation on strength loss were determined to be somewhat incomplete, owing to the fact that studies have shown no noticeable difference in muscle strength decline attenuation after consuming DHA and EPA.
The researchers indicated that previous studies had lasted durations of just 3 to 4 weeks, whereas supplementation of EPA and DHA typically require between 30 and 60 days to reduce the decline in muscle strength observed after eccentric training. This means that previous studies had ended too early, not giving enough time for effects to possibly manifest.
Following eccentric contraction, levels of inflammatory markers such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-A) and interleukin six (IL-6) are elevated, but supplementation of the EPA and DHA combination were able to inhibit such elevations.
Reviewing the effects of neuromuscular damage attenuation by EPA and DHA, they were only able to find one study that included rodents as test subjects, positing the need for further investigation.
The fish oil combination consumed over the course of eight weeks resulted in a dose-dependent reduction in delayed onset muscle soreness, indicating the possibility of usage to manage post workout pain.
Other reviewed studies included the effect of EPA and DHA intake on inhibiting decreases in muscle mass, which have been found to be of benefit in rodent studies, but further human studies are needed to confirm this.
It is also found that persons between the ages of 60 and 85 that consumed a combination of EPA and DHA daily over the course of six months experienced growth of thigh muscle mass, while younger men (aged between 21 to 24) did not notice any such benefit.
Even though a few studies have found preliminary positive results, there is still a very large gray area with respect to supplementation. For instance, it is generally agreed that the combination is very effective for improving the neuromuscular adaptation that occurs following your work out, but exact mechanisms for this are unclear.
On another note, the exact dosage that is required to elicit the desired benefits also require further investigation. Considering that safety guidelines recommend a maximum consumption of 3 grams daily, and athletes routinely consume in excess of this amount, further variables such as training experience, age and gender to name a few need to be factored into subsequent studies in coming to positive conclusions.
Eisuke Ochi, Yosuke Tsuchiya. Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaneoic Acid (DHA) in Muscle Damage and Function Nutrients 2018, 10(5), 552; doi 10.3390/nu10050552