Fish oil supplements may be thought to encourage muscle growth and repair damaged proteins but a new study published in Physiological Reports on March 22 debunks this perception. In reality, fish oil supplements do not make any significant difference to muscle growth in healthy, resistance-trained young men.

“In recent years, there have been many studies focusing on the benefits of fish oil as a dietary supplement, including its importance for muscle,” says University of Stirling Professor Kevin Tipton. “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.”

In collaboration with experts from the Institute for Aquaculture, the team tested the supplement’s effects on muscle growth on 20 male weight-lifters. They took the participant’s’ muscle biopsies before and after the experiment so they could evaluate how much the muscle cells take up omega-3 fats, the most important element of fish oil.

Fish oil does not cause any significant effects on muscle growth. Photo from Pixabay/tpsdave

Fish oil does not cause any significant effects on muscle growth. Photo from Pixabay/tpsdav

The researchers gave these participants five grammes of the supplements daily for a period of eight weeks. Moreover, these weight-lifters ate a filling breakfast before taking in 30 grammes of protein powder going to the gym to do leg presses and leg extensions.

“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,” Tipton says. “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,” Tipton concludes.