Background: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (N-3) are essential nutrients for human health and integral components of neural tissues. There is evidence that N-3 supplementation may benefit exercise performance, however, no study has investigated the ergogenic potential of N-3 supplementation. Our objective was to determine the effect of short-term N-3 supplementation on neuromuscular-function and physical-performance in well-trained athletes.
Methods: Male athletes (n = 30), 25 years (SD 4.6), training 17 h.wk−1 (SD 5) completed this randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-design study. At baseline a blood sample was collected, maximal voluntary isometric contractions (MVC) with electromyography (EMG) recordings were measured, and participants underwent various performance tests including a Wingate test and 250 kJ time trial (TT) followed by repeated MVC and EMG measurement. Participants were then randomly assigned to receive N-3 (5 ml seal oil, 375 mg EPA, 230 mg DPA, 510 mg DHA) or placebo (5 ml olive oil) for 21-days after which baseline testing was repeated. The magnitude-based inference approach was used to estimate the probability that N-3 had a beneficial effect on neuromuscular-function and performance of at least ±1 %. Data are shown as mean ± 90 % confidence-interval.
Results: Plasma EPA was higher on N-3 than placebo (p = 0.004) but the increases in DPA and DHA were not significant (p = 0.087, p = 0.058). N-3 supplementation had an unclear effect on MVC force (4.1 ± 6.6 %) but increased vastus lateralis EMG by 20 ± 18 % vs placebo (very likely beneficial). N-3 supplementation reduced Wingate percent power drop by 4.76 ± 3.4 % vs placebo (very likely beneficial), but the difference in TT performance was unclear (−1.9 ± 4.8 %).
Conclusion: Our data indicates N-3 PUFA supplementation improved peripheral neuromuscular function and aspects of fatigue with an unclear effect on central neuromuscular function. Clinical trial registration NCT0201433.
Keywords: Omega-3 fatty acids, Neuromuscular function, Fat supplementation, Performance, Adaptations to training