Fish oil supplementation has gained a lot of attention for their health benefits. Specifically supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids have demonstrated positive effects on blood pressure, triglycerides, and heart rate (1). Additionally, they’ve been shown to improve arterial dilation, possess antiarrhythmic and anti-inflammatory properties. All of which has been shown to have protective effects against the development of cardiovascular disease (1). But less is known about the role of fish oil supplementation in recovery from resistance training. A 2020 paper by VanDusseldorp et al. set out to examine the effects of fish oil supplementation on various markers of recovery following a strenuous bout of eccentric exercise (2).
A paper by Heileson et al. found that the minimum effective dose for fish oil supplementation to elicit a positive response on recovery was 2g supplemented for at least four weeks (3). However research has been conflicting regarding what the appropriate dosing should be. Therefore previously mentioned paper by VanDusseldorp and colleagues examined the effects of a seven week fish oil supplementation protocol where dosages were set to 2g, 4g, and 6g between groups. This was a well controlled study “Utilizing a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind experimental design, participants were randomly assigned to consume 2- (2G), 4- (4G), or 6- (6G) g/da of either FO or placebo (PL) supplementation for ~7.5 weeks (8 participants per group (4 males and 4 females per group); a 6-week run in the supplementation period, 1 week involving familiarization testing at the beginning of the week and experimental testing at the end of the week, and three days of recovery testing). Muscle soreness, venous blood (for the assessment of creatine kinase (CK) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), and indices of muscle function were collected prior to eccentric exercise, as well as immediately post, 1-, 2-, 4-, 24-, 48-, and 72-h (H) post-exercise. Participants continued to supplement until they completed the 72H time-point.” (2).
Participants completed eccentric squats on a smith machine at a tempo of 4-0-1 for ten sets of eight reps using 70% of their 1RM and taking three minutes rest between sets. Additionally participants were made to complete five sets of twenty bodyweight split jump squats. The primary metrics used to evaluate muscle damage and recovery were blood biomarkers, perceived soreness, vertical jump, agility test, forty yard sprint, and maximum voluntary isometric contraction.
Researchers observed 6g of fish oil supplementation had a beneficial effect on perceived muscle soreness. Whereby participants reported lower soreness scores across all timepoints of measurement. The 6g group also decreased the recovery time of vertical jump performance, and in some cases also resulted in better blood values when monitoring indirect markers of muscle damage when compared to the other controls.
So, what does this mean practically? Well, although the researchers did find a beneficial effect on recovery when supplementing 6g/day of fish oils the magnitude of effect was still relatively small. Therefore utilization of this strategy should be decided upon based on a costs benefit analysis. I typically don’t recommend many supplements to individuals. However from a health perspective I think fish oil supplementation is generally beneficial. So if you decide to take it for that reason you may also experience some minor benefits of enhanced recovery.