Many athletes and active people deal with inflammation. Inflammation is a commonly used term that describes the general chemical actions and activities within tissue that endeavor to aggressively manage injury. While inflammatory activities are necessary to help deal with acute, transient injuries, chronic or long term inflammation leads to tissue destruction, pain and discomfort. That means that managing inflammation for optimal recovery and performance enhancement needs to be a key consideration for anyone who trains and competes.
Omega-3 fatty acids, primarily EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) have anti-inflammatory properties and EPA-rich fish oil helps with discomfort by reducing the production of eicosanoid factors that stoke up inflammation and increasing factors that decrease it.1,2 (See the Omega-3 Conversion Figure)
Many exercisers, especially people just starting an exercise program, can experience joint discomfort during and after exercise and fish oil supplementation can help manage inflammation.3 Even in highly trained individuals, whose joints have adapted to better manage workout-induced inflammation, research suggests that fish oil supplements can reduce measures of inflammation in between workouts.4 Moreover, regular, long term consumption of fish oil is critical to lessening exercise induced inflammation as it can take several weeks for EPA to concentrate in tissue in order to provide benefit.
1. Fetterman JW Jr, Zdanowicz MM. Therapeutic potential of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in disease. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2009 Jul 1;66(13):1169-79.
2. Zhang H, Zhang C. Vasoprotection by dietary supplements and exercise: role of TNFα signaling. Exp Diabetes Res. 2012;2012:1-6.
3. Tartibian B, Maleki BH, Abbasi A. Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation attenuates inflammatory markers after eccentric exercise in untrained men. Clin J Sport Med 2011;21(2):131–137.
4. Bloomer RJ, Larson DE, Fisher-Wellman KH, Galpin AJ, Schilling BK. Effect of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acid on resting and exercise-induced inflammatory and oxidative stress biomarkers: a randomized, placebo controlled, cross-over study. Lipids Health Dis. 2009 Aug 19;8:36.