The Impact of Long-Chain Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Supplementation on Body Composition, Strength, and Power in Collegiate Athletes

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Jeffery Heileson
Ashlyne Elliott
Julie Buzzard
Mitchell Cholewinski
Andrew Gallucci
LesLee Funderburk



Introduction: Recent evidence suggests that long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (LC n-3) supplementation may enhance training adaptations associated with athletic performance. This study examined the impact of LC n-3 supplementation on body composition, strength, and power in collegiate athletes.

Methods:  Athletes (n = 27) were assigned to one of two conditions for eight weeks: fish oil (FO, 3.0 g∙d-1 [1.75g EPA and 1.1g DHA], n = 15) or placebo (PL, high-oleic safflower oil, 3g, n = 12) for 8-weeks. Athletes completed a three-day food log and questionnaire, provided a blood sample via fingerstick to determine their LC n-3 status, conducted body composition analysis through dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, and had their handgrip strength (HGS) and countermovement jump assessed.

Results: In the FO group, the omega-3 index, EPA and DHA increased by 73%, 332% and 64%, respectively, while there was no change in the placebo group. HGS significantly improved in the FO group (p = .018, +9.1%) and did not change in the placebo group (p = .615, -1.8%). Body composition and power were similar between groups. The change in HGS was positively correlated with the relative change in EPA and EPA:AA ratio.

Conclusions: For in-season athletes, the addition of LC n-3 supplementation to a dietary regime increases blood LC n-3 status and may preserve or improve muscular performance while in-season.

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