Women in their mid-sixties get more out of strength training if they take fish-oil supplements, discovered Brazilian researchers at Parana Federal University. They did an experiment with 45 women aged 64.
Fish-oil supplements improve body composition. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish not only stimulate the burning of fatty acids, [Br J Nutr. 2003 Oct;90(4):777-86.] they also enhance muscle-tissue build-up. [Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 May;85(5):1267-74.] One theory suggests that fish oil helps the repair to damaged muscle tissue done by immune cells. Another suggests that fish oil supplements boost the IGF-1 concentration. Whichever mechanism it is, experiments have shown that supplementation with fish oil, fish oil and HMB, or fish oil and leucine protects the muscle mass of cancer patients. [Clin Nutr. 2011 Dec;30(6):759-68.]
The Brazilians wanted to know whether fish oil could help healthy elderly people with their strength training. Strength training is an effective anti-aging medicine, but the older people get, the less well their bodies react to this form of exercise. That was the reason the Brazilians carried out their experiment.
The researchers got some of their subjects to train three times a week in a gym for 12 weeks [ST]. Others trained too, and took a daily 2 g fish oil supplement, containing 600 mg DHA+EPA. A third group started to take fish oil capsules 60 days before the training programme began [ST150].
The maximal strength the subjects were capable of developing during their exercises – their peak torque – increased more in the groups that took fish oil than in the ST group. Supplementation also had a similar effect on the electro-mechanical delay [EMD]. This is the time that elapses between a muscle being stimulated by a nerve and when it contracts. The time elapse decreased by more in the fish-oil groups.
At the end of the 12 weeks the researchers tested the extent to which the women were better able to perform daily movements, for example how often they could get up out of a chair repeatedly [Chair rising]. Again, the fish-oil groups had better results than the group that had only done training.
"Fish oil may be an attractive supplement for the elderly to maximize their neuromuscular responses to strength training, which is important to life quality", the Brazilians conclude. "However, the supplementation length does not influence the strength-training effects."
Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Feb;95(2):428-36.