Scientists examine the merits of fish oil supplements

Professor Kevin Tipton
Professor Kevin Tipton led the research
23 March 2016

The effect of fish oil supplements on muscle growth has been investigated by a team of Stirling academics, revealing the tablets do not give gym-goers an advantage in the weight room.

Health and Exercise Science researchers from Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence joined forces with experts from the Institute for Aquaculture to test whether the capsules enhance the muscle’s ability to grow at an increased rate.

Their findings, published in Physiological Reports, reveal that fish oil supplementation makes no significant difference to muscle growth in healthy, resistance trained young men.

During the study, 20 individuals who work out at the gym regularly, received the equivalent of five grams of fish oil every day for eight weeks. The weight-lifters consumed a hearty breakfast in the laboratory before performing a series of leg presses and leg extensions and consuming 30 grams of protein powder.

Muscle biopsies were taken before and after the trial to assess how much of the omega-3 fats – thought to be the most important component of the fish oil for muscle - were taken up by the muscle cells.

Professor Kevin Tipton of the School of Sport, said: “In recent years there have been many studies focusing on the benefits of fish oil as a dietary supplement, including its importance for muscle. We have found that when it comes to building lean muscle mass and repairing damaged proteins, these capsules do not seem to make much of a difference for healthy men already undertaking resistance training.

“Working with our colleagues in the Institute for Aquaculture, we discovered there was no significant difference in the rate at which muscle adds new protein after exercise between participants who took the control capsule of coconut oil and those who ingested the fish oil supplements. This finding suggests that omega-3 capsules do not give you the advantage in the gym that many have suggested over the past few years.

“The next stage is to focus on the response in people of varying ages and inactivity as this may identify a receptiveness to the supplement for individuals who have less established muscle mass and strength and different metabolic responses as a result.”

Background information

Media enquiries to Corrie Campbell, Communications Officer on 01786 466 169 or c.r.campbell@stir.ac.uk.

Notes for editors:

The paper ‘Fish oil supplementation suppresses resistance exercise and feeding-induced anabolic signalling without affecting myofibrillar protein synthesis in young men’ is published in the journal Physiological Reportsand can be found in full at: http://physreports.physiology.org/content/4/6/e12715.

Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence

The Scottish Government designated the University of Stirling as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence in 2008. Our mission is to deliver the best for Scottish sport through the powerful and inspirational combination of sport and education. We are at the heart of Scottish sport, preparing athletes to perform on the world stage, enabling students to develop their skill sets for excellent careers and producing innovative research to improve the health of the nation. Our sport-centred campus brings together the people shaping Scottish sport, creating a critical mass of sporting expertise and excellence. www.stir.ac.uk/sport-at-stirling

The Institute of Aquaculture

The Institute of Aquaculture is the leading international centre in its field and is the largest of its kind in the world. The Institute was ranked as the top aquaculture centre in the UK by the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, with 90 per cent of research impact rated as outstanding. The Institute bring together cross-disciplinary, world class researchers to meet the wide range of challenges faced as aquaculture grows to meet global demands. www.aqua.stir.ac.uk

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