We’ve all considered taking omega 3 supplements for our health. After all, it’s proven to be good for your heart.
Omega 3s – classified as a ‘good fat’ – are also sold as a sports supplement in order to improve athletic performance.
But can they really help you be fitter?
Your body can’t make omega 3 fatty acids on its own. It needs a good diet including oily fish, avocadoes, nuts, seeds and olive oil. Many people don’t manage this on their own, which is where omega 3 supplements come in.
Interest in fish oil supplements (which are high in omega 3s) grew rapidly in the 1970s when it was discovered that the Inuit population had a lower risk of heart attacks, thought to be due to the huge amount of fish they ate. Since then, some studies have shown that fish oils can improve athletic performance by increasing the production of testosterone.
One thing that athletes suffer from a lot is the common cold. This is because exercise can temporarily suppress the immune system, leaving the body susceptible to bugs. This means people have to take a rest from their workouts, setting back their goals.
Omega 3s are thought to boost the immune system by enhancing cell function. One study indicated omega 3s could help reduce the duration of a cough/cold. However, this study suggests no immunity benefit, leaving opinion divided.
Research has shown that omega 3 supplementation can help decrease muscle soreness; but there are just as many studies which show no benefit at all.
Some people also question whether active people would even want to reduce the inflammation and soreness, which is after all a natural and regenerative process following a workout.
This recent study shows supplementing with omega 3s may increase muscular strength, though not muscle size, in women and older people. But there is also some evidence that factors other than fish oil may be responsible for this effect.
So, is it worth taking extra good fats to improve your athletic performance? Probably not – unless you’re hoping to reduce the length of a cold, or are an older woman hoping to gain strength. But new research is being done all the time, so watch this space!
I would say just eat plenty of oily fish and Mediterranean diet foods and don't worry about supplements which would only make a tiny difference anyway!
good even-handed article - all these studies seem to come up with is 'it might work, but more research needed'. We see so much promising miracles that it is important to be reminded that there is really no such thing.
Personally I don't think anyone needs supplements to help them perform their best. Ok, maybe if you're an Olympic athlete, but most of us won't notice much difference. I think some people probably use them to compensate for a not-so-healthy diet too.
Isn't it good for oiling your joints and your brain too? Plus most omega 3 sources are good proteins so that in itself would help your performance