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Benefits of Fish Oil for Bodybuilding (Explained)

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

Evidence-Based. Scientifically Reviewed by Michael Sharpe, MSc.


Fish oil is a common and inexpensive supplement that is made from fish. Sardines, salmon, mackerel, tuna, and herring are examples of fatty fish that are used to make fish oil.


Fish oils are high in:

  • Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). (2)

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)


The body cannot produce PUFAs on its own. DHA and EPA are metabolites of ALA.


While ALA may be found in vegetables and other plant foods, it is not as easily absorbed by the body as DHA or EPA.


People may eat fish to increase their levels of DHA and EPA, since fish is a strong dietary source of both of these omega-3 fatty acids.



If you don't eat fish on a regular basis, you may want to consider taking fish oil supplements.


They may serve a variety of important functions in the body, such as: (1)

  • Nervous system control

  • Cell membrane function, shape, and signalling

  • Regulation of blood pressure

  • Inflammatory processes

  • Blood coagulation

  • Glucose tolerance


Furthermore, these fatty acids may have an impact on skeletal muscle metabolism and function after exercise.


fish oil pills

Benefits for Bodybuilding

There are a few potential benefits for bodybuilding and improving physique and muscle mass.




Improves Workouts

The EPA and DHA in fish oil may help with exercise performance.


Because of their anti-inflammatory effects, they may be able to prevent or minimise the loss of strength and range of motion caused by exercise.


In one study, 16 males consumed 2,400 mg of fish oil daily for 8 weeks (containing 600 mg of EPA and 260 mg of DHA), then did 5 sets of 6 bicep contractions.


Those who took the fish oil were able to sustain muscular force throughout the workout and had less muscle swelling than individuals who were given a placebo. (3)


Similar findings were obtained in another 8-week study. Men taking the same dose of fish oil every day helped to prevent muscular weakness and range of motion decrease after exercise. (4)


Furthermore, a 6-week trial found that supplementing daily with 4,000 mg of fish oil (including 2,000 mg of both EPA and DHA) maintained or even enhanced lower-body muscular strength in 20 resistance-trained men on a low-calorie diet for weight reduction. (5)


As a result, fish oil may assist bodybuilders retain muscular strength while dieting, which is a common part of their training.


Nonetheless, further study into the benefits of fish oil on muscle growth and strength is required.


Reduces Muscle Soreness

It's normal to be sore after a workout. In fact, some experience soreness and stiffness 12-72 hours after engaging in a new or demanding activity.


Delayed-onset muscular soreness (DOMS) is a condition that is caused by inflammation within the muscle. (6)


DOMS is a frequent occurrence among bodybuilders, and it may make it difficult to stay motivated, keep progressing, and perform well during workouts.


While massaging may assist to alleviate the sensations, fish oil may also aid by reducing muscle damage and inflammation after resistance training. (7, 8)



After 8 weeks of consuming 2,400 mg of fish oil (containing 600 mg of EPA and 260 mg of DHA) daily, 21 men performed bicep curls.


When compared to a placebo, the fish oil group had reduced onset of DOMS and avoided temporary muscular weakness. (9)


Similarly, a 14-day study revealed that taking 6,000 mg of fish oil (including 3,000 mg of EPA and 600 mg of DHA) daily decreased the intensity of DOMS after bicep curls and knee extensions more than taking a placebo. (10)


Improves Age-Related Muscle Health

The steady decrease of muscular mass is linked to ageing. Muscle mass falls about 0.1-0.5% every year beyond the age of 30, with a major rise in muscle loss around the age of 65. (11)


It gets more difficult to maintain and gain muscle as you get older, partially because your body's sensitivity to resistance exercise and protein consumption decreases. (12)


Fish oil's anti-inflammatory characteristics may help your muscles respond better to protein and resistance exercise, helping you to maintain muscle mass as you age. (13)


In a 16-week study, supplementing with 4,200 mg of omega-3s (including 2,700 mg of EPA and 1,200 mg of EPA) daily substantially boosted muscle growth following exercise in older individuals compared to younger people. (13)


Other studies have shown that fish oil may help older persons maintain or gain muscle mass, especially when paired with resistance exercise.


However, more study is required, though these findings suggest advantages for middle-aged and older bodybuilders. (14, 15, 16)



Should You Take Fish Oil?

Fish oil seems very effective in reducing inflammation and muscle soreness. This could give a bodybuilder an advantage due to the increase in recovery and the reduction in temporary strength loss after a workout.


These advantages could result in extra workouts, harder workouts, and higher loads being used, increasing long term muscle growth.


It is safe to supplement with fish oil and there are very few adverse effects, making it a good supplement to take.



References

This section contains links to research, studies, and sources of information for this article, as well as authors, contributors, etc. All sources, along with the article and facts, are subjected to a series of quality, reliability, and relevance checks.

Real Muscle primarily uses high-quality sources, such as peer-reviewed publications, to back up the information in our articles. To understand more about how we fact-check and keep our information accurate, dependable, and trustworthy, read more about us.

This evidence based analysis on fish oil for bodybuilding features 16 reference, listed below.


1. Gammone MA, Riccioni G, Parrinello G, D'Orazio N. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Benefits and Endpoints in Sport. Nutrients. (2018, Dec 27)

2. Omega 3 Fatty Acids. (Government Authority)

3. Ochi E, Yanagimoto K, Morishima T, Tsuchiya Y. Eicosapentaenoic Acid-Rich Fish Oil Supplementation Inhibits the Decrease in Concentric Work Output and Muscle Swelling of the Elbow Flexors. J Am Coll Nutr. (2019, Feb) (Randomised Controlled Trial)

4. Ochi E, Tsuchiya Y, Yanagimoto K. Effect of eicosapentaenoic acids-rich fish oil supplementation on motor nerve function after eccentric contractions. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2017, Jul 12) (Randomised Controlled Trial)

5. Philpott JD, Bootsma NJ, Rodriguez-Sanchez N, Hamilton DL, MacKinlay E, Dick J, Mettler S, Galloway SDR, Tipton KD, Witard OC. Influence of Fish Oil-Derived n-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation on Changes in Body Composition and Muscle Strength During Short-Term Weight Loss in Resistance-Trained Men. Front Nutr. (2019, Jul 16) ✔

6. Hotfiel T, Freiwald J, Hoppe MW, Lutter C, Forst R, Grim C, Bloch W, Hüttel M, Heiss R. Advances in Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): Part I: Pathogenesis and Diagnostics. Sportverletz Sportschaden. (2018, Dec) (Review)

8. Ochi E, Tsuchiya Y, Yanagimoto K. Effect of eicosapentaenoic acids-rich fish oil supplementation on motor nerve function after eccentric contractions. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2017, Jul 12)

9. Ochi E, Tsuchiya Y, Yanagimoto K. Effect of eicosapentaenoic acids-rich fish oil supplementation on motor nerve function after eccentric contractions. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2017, Jul 12) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔

10. Tinsley GM, Gann JJ, Huber SR, Andre TL, La Bounty PM, Bowden RG, Gordon PM, Grandjean PW. Effects of Fish Oil Supplementation on Postresistance Exercise Muscle Soreness. J Diet Suppl. (2017, Jan 2)

11. Liguori I, Russo G, Aran L, Bulli G, Curcio F, Della-Morte D, Gargiulo G, Testa G, Cacciatore F, Bonaduce D, Abete P. Sarcopenia: assessment of disease burden and strategies to improve outcomes. Clin Interv Aging. (2018, May 14)

12. Morton RW, Traylor DA, Weijs PJM, Phillips SM. Defining anabolic resistance: implications for delivery of clinical care nutrition. Curr Opin Crit Care. (2018, Apr) (Review)

13. Lalia AZ, Dasari S, Robinson MM, Abid H, Morse DM, Klaus KA, Lanza IR. Influence of omega-3 fatty acids on skeletal muscle protein metabolism and mitochondrial bioenergetics in older adults. Aging (Albany NY). (2017, Apr)

14. Rodacki CL, Rodacki AL, Pereira G, Naliwaiko K, Coelho I, Pequito D, Fernandes LC. Fish-oil supplementation enhances the effects of strength training in elderly women. Am J Clin Nutr. (2012, Feb) (Randomised Controlled Trial)

15. Da Boit M, Sibson R, Sivasubramaniam S, Meakin JR, Greig CA, Aspden RM, Thies F, Jeromson S, Hamilton DL, Speakman JR, Hambly C, Mangoni AA, Preston T, Gray SR. Sex differences in the effect of fish-oil supplementation on the adaptive response to resistance exercise training in older people: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. (2017, Jan) (Randomised Controlled Trial)

16. Smith GI, Julliand S, Reeds DN, Sinacore DR, Klein S, Mittendorfer B. Fish oil-derived n-3 PUFA therapy increases muscle mass and function in healthy older adults. Am J Clin Nutr. (2015, Jul) (Randomised Controlled Trial)

Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.

 

The information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other competent professional before following advice or taking any supplement. See our terms and conditions.



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