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How to withstand severe physiological stress without losing strength


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Fish oil supplementation | How to withstand severe physiological stress without losing strength
During periods of physiological stress, such as strenuous exercise and little food, supplementation with 2 grams of fish oil per day maintains muscle strength. This is apparent from an American meta-study, which focuses mainly on military applications, but the results of which can also be applied to athletes.


If soldiers have to endure a lot physically during training or conflicts, for example because they have to walk long distances or do heavy work, their muscle mass and strength will decrease as a result. Can fish oil supplementation prevent this?There are animal studies and also a number of human studies that suggest this, but Jeffery Heileson and LesLee Funderburk, two American sports scientists from Baylor University, wanted to know explicitly to what extent fish oil supplementation is interesting for the military. And so Heileson and Funderburk collected 18 previously published studies relevant to their research question, aggregated the results, and re-analyzed them.
The researchers found studies in which supplementation with fish oil increased muscle mass or protected against breakdown, but those studies were so small that the researchers did not want to draw any conclusions. This also applied to the studies in which fish oil increased muscle strength.

The researchers are more positive about the studies in which fish oil supplements during periods of great physiological stress protected against a decrease in muscle strength or accelerated recovery of muscle strength.
Click on the table below for a larger version.

"Although it is difficult to make specific recommendations for fish oil n-3 PUFA supplementation, it would seem that the minimum effective dose is 2 grams a day for at least 4 weeks to preserve strength and enhance recovery from physiological stress", summarize Heileson and Funderburk.

"However, fish oil n-3 PUFAs' role in promoting or preserving lean body mass or promoting strength is unclear and warrants additional investigation."
Nutr Rev. 2020 Dec 1;78(12):1001-14.