Fish Oil for Healthy Aging: Potential Application to Master Athletes


September 2021




Master athletes perform high volumes of exercise training yet display lower levels of physical functioning and exercise performance when compared with younger athletes. Several reports in the clinical literature show that long chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (LC n-3 PUFA) ingestion promotes skeletal muscle anabolism and strength in untrained older persons. There is also evidence that LC n-3 PUFA ingestion improves indices of muscle recovery following damaging exercise in younger persons. These findings suggest that LC n-3 PUFA intake could have an ergogenic effect in master athletes. However, the beneficial effect of LC n-3 PUFA intake on skeletal muscle in response to exercise training in both older and younger persons is inconsistent and, in some cases, generated from low-quality studies or those with a high risk of bias. Other factors such as the choice of placebo and health status of participants also confound interpretation of existing reports. As such, when considered on balance, the available evidence does not indicate that ingestion of LC n-3 PUFAs above current population recommendations (250–500 mg/day; 2 portions of oily fish per week) enhances exercise performance or recovery from exercise training in master athletes. Further work is now needed related to how the dose, duration, and co-ingestion of LC n-3 PUFAs with other nutrients such as amino acids impact the adaptive response to exercise training. This work should also consider how LC n-3 PUFA supplementation may differentially alter the lipid profile of cellular membranes of key regulatory sites such as the sarcolemma, mitochondria, and sarcoplasmic reticulum.

Sports Med (2021)