Impact of varying doses of omega-3 supplementation on muscle damage and recovery after eccentric resistance exercise

Metabol Open. 2021 Oct 3;12:100133. doi: 10.1016/j.metop.2021.100133. eCollection 2021 Dec.


Background: Exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) commonly occurs following intense resistance exercise and is associated with decrements in exercise performance and delayed muscle recovery. Thus, practical methods to attenuate EIMD would prove useful to both training and athletic populations. Omega-3 (n-3) supplementation has been shown to mitigate EIMD with evidence of increasing efficacy at higher doses (up to 6 g/day). However, data of its efficacy in trained individuals is limited. Therefore, this study investigated the effects of 6 and 8 g of n-3 supplementation on markers of muscle damage and muscle recovery after eccentric resistance exercise in resistance-trained males.

Methods: Using a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled design, 26 resistance trained males (23 ± 4 years; 173.6 ± 20.5 cm; 81.9 ± 9.7 kg; 14.2 ± 3.7% body fat) supplemented with 6 (n=10) or 8 g (n=7) of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, or placebo (n=9) for 33 days. On day 30, participants performed a lower body muscle-damaging eccentric resistance exercise bout. Measures of muscle performance, soreness, and damage were taken pre-exercise on day 30 as well as on days 31-33, including vertical jump height (VJH), perceived muscle soreness (PMS), hip and knee range of motion (ROM), repetitions to fatigue (RTF) at 70% 1-RM, and serum creatine kinase (CK) while participants continued to supplement until day 33.

Results: There were significant differences in VJH, PMS, and serum CK following the muscle-damaging exercise bout compared to pre-exercise (p<0.05). However, there were no significant (p>0.05) differences between supplementation groups (6 g, 8 g, and placebo) at any time point post-exercise (day 31-33). There were no changes in hip and knee ROM or RTF at any time point or between groups. Vertical jump height and PMS returned to pre-exercise levels despite CK remaining elevated post-exercise.

Conclusions: Thirty-three days of 6 and 8 g of n-3 supplementation did not attenuate EIMD or enhance muscle recovery following muscle-damaging eccentric resistance exercise in resistance-trained males. Further research using various n-3 supplementation durations, doses, and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) concentrations may be needed to establish its efficacy in attenuating EIMD, which may vary between trained and untrained individuals. Furthermore, while circulating CK is commonly used to assess muscle damage, elevated CK levels may not reflect muscle recovery status following muscle-damaging exercise.

Keywords: Athletic performance; CK, creatine kinase; DHA, docosahexaenoic acid; DOMS, delayed-onset muscle soreness; Dietary supplements; EIMD, exercise-induced muscle damage; EPA, eicosapentaenoic acid; Fatty acids; Omega-3; PMS, perceived muscle soreness; ROM, range of motion; RTF, repetitions to fatigue; Resistance training; Sports nutritional sciences; VJH, vertical jump height; n-3, omega-3.