We all know omega-3 is great for health, but it’s also a huge help for those in serious training, or for anyone looking to get fitter, stronger or just to improve their workouts. This article takes a look at all the benefits on omega-3 specifically for exercise.
Exercise can be great and make you feel amazing but there is one drawback that can leave you feeling burnt out instead of more alive: the effects of cortisol. Produced in the adrenal gland, cortisol is a stress hormone that is released in response to low blood sugar and mental or physical stress. A strenuous workout, or the stress of pushing the body physically when it’s not accustomed to it can trigger a cortisol release. While cortisol is a good thing because it helps us handle stress and regulates inflammation, it can also be damaging to the body when it’s released too often. It counteracts the benefits of exercising by hindering muscle growth and leading to belly fat and can leave us feeling tired and wired.
Omega-3 supplementation has been shown to reduce cortisol levels. After six weeks of taking omega-3, a group of study participants had lowered levels of cortisol. They were also observed to have reduced the amount of fat on their bodies while their levels of lean muscle increased. In a 2011 study, omega-3 also was observed to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. This contributes to its ability to help muscle growth. When you exercise or lift weights, you’re actually damaging your muscles by creating small tears in the muscle fibers. It’s during the resting period after the exercise that your muscles get bigger and stronger through the healing process. By stimulating muscle protein synthesis, omega-3 offers a boost in healing and muscle growth during that period.
Maintaining energy and avoiding fatigue during a workout is also be a challenge for everyone from those just starting an exercise regime to olympic athletes. Fatigue gets us all in the end, however, omega-3 helps in this area by increasing blood flow and therefore oxygen to the working muscles. It has been shown to increase exercise tolerance by decreasing systemic vascular resistance. This means that blood flows more easily through the body, which improves energy delivery and removal of waste products from the muscles, just when they need it the most.
Not only can omega-3 help heighten the benefits of exercise, but it also helps manage the unpleasant aftermath of sore and stiff muscles. Delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, post-workout is common in those who are just starting to get into an exercise routine, those who do strength training, or anyone who’s pushed themselves really hard. The soreness and reduced range of motion is often caused by inflammation that occurs when the muscles are damaged. As an anti-inflammatory, omega-3 can lessen the severity of the inflammation and reduce the pain. By also increasing the blood flow to the damage muscles, it helps speed up the recovery process and allows you to bounce back quicker. These omega-3 benefits were displayed in a 2009 study that focused on the effects of omega-3 being used to counteract DOMS. Compared to the study group that was not given omega-3, the group given omega-3 supplementation had reduced pain and increased range of motion at 24 to 48 hours after the workout when the symptoms of DOMS are most strongly felt. The reduction of inflammation and pain was also observed in a second study where the participants were given 3000mg dose of omega-3 daily.
When it comes to exercise, omega-3 offers a wealth of benefits. It prevents cortisol from hindering muscle growth and producing fat, it helps keep you energized, it supports muscle growth, and it cuts down on soreness. Omega-3 is just as useful for exercise as any machine or set of weights, and can help you maintain a healthy exercise routine.
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