Will Adding Fish Oils to Whey Protein Make Your Shake More Anabolic?
By: Robbie Durand
Many athletes take whey protein, creatine, fish oils, and vitamins for optimal health and improved performance. Fish oils are rich in the long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Fish oils have been associated with a favorable cardiovascular profile. Fish oil improves endothelial function reduces inflammation, reduces triglycerides, and improves insulin sensitivity. Additionally, fish oil consumption is related to favorable reductions in bodyfat. For example, rodent studies have also demonstrated a protective effect of fish oil on high-fat-diet-induced obesity, despite no differences in energy intake. Taken together, these findings indicate that fat utilization is increased from fish oils. Also, some have proposed that omega-3-induced increase insulin sensitivity would enhance glycogen storage, thus shifting the oxidation of carbohydrate onto lipids.
Some studies have found that Omega 3 fatty acids can also increase muscle protein synthesis, which may help enhance muscle growth. For instance, one study investigated eight weeks of fish oils derived from omega three fatty acids supplementation was shown to improve rates of muscle protein synthesis in young, middle‐aged, and older adults. Thus, it appears that fish oil supplementation enhances the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids composition of skeletal muscle, which subsequently primes skeletal muscle to respond to anabolic stimulation either in the form of amino acid provision, b) or mechanical stimulation (i.e., resistance exercise). Fish oils combined with a hardcore resistance training program has never been conducted. Additionally, the responses of fish oils when taken by well-trained individuals is not known. Just because fish oils can stimulate protein synthesis in the elderly does not necessarily mean that it will work the same with younger adults.
In a randomized study, well-trained resistance trained athletes were assigned to either a fish oil or coconut oil condition. Coconut oil was chosen as a control as coconut oil does not contain any n‐3 or n‐6 PUFAs. Thus, coconut oil will not change the n‐6/n‐3 ratio as would corn oil or another PUFA. Moreover, there is no evidence that coconut oil has any impact on muscle protein metabolism. The well-trained resistance athletes receive either equivalent of five grams of fish oil every day for eight weeks. The weight-lifters consumed a breakfast in the laboratory before performing a series of leg presses and leg extensions and consuming 30 grams of whey 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.
At the end of eight weeks, fish oils had no effect on stimulating muscle protein synthesis. These data highlight that eight weeks of fish oil supplementation which was accompanied by a twofold increase in the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids composition of skeletal muscle, fish oil supplementation did not significantly enhance rates of muscle protein synthesis at rest nor in either fed or fed and exercise condition compared to coconut oil.
Key Points: Fish Oils are great for reducing inflammation and overall health, but they will not increase protein synthesis as some people claim, but they are still essential.
Chris McGlory, Sophie L. Wardle, Lindsay S. Macnaughton, Oliver C. Witard, Fraser Scott, James Dick, J. Gordon Bell, Stuart M. Phillips, Stuart D. R. Galloway, D. Lee Hamilton, Kevin D. Tipton. Fish oil supplementation suppresses resistance exercise and feeding‐induced increases in anabolic signaling without affecting myofibrillar protein synthesis in young men. Physiological Reports, March 2016 DOI:
Smith, G. I., P. Atherton, D. N. Reeds, B. S. Mohammed, D. Rankin, M. J. Rennie, et al. 2011a. Dietary omega‐3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 93:402–412.
Smith, G. I., P. Atherton, D. N. Reeds, B. S. Mohammed, D. Rankin, M. J. Rennie, et al. 2011b. Omega‐3 polyunsaturated fatty acids augment the muscle protein anabolic response to hyperinsulinaemia‐hyperaminoacidaemia in healthy young and middle‐aged men and women. Clin. Sci. (Lond.) 121:267–278.
Smith, G. I., S. Julliand, D. N. Reeds, D. R. Sinacore, S. Klein, and B. Mittendorfer. 2015. Fish oil‐derived n‐3 PUFA therapy increases muscle mass and function in healthy older adults. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 102:115–122.