DHA: The New Sports Nutrition Kid on the Block
While creatine, branched-chain amino acids and glutamine are well known and frequently utilized amongst fitness buffs and competitive athletes, there’s another nutrient taking its turn in the spotlight – DHA. DHA, short for docosahexaenoic acid, is an essential omega-3 fatty acid that has made a name for itself for its role in both cardiovascular and brain health. More recently, the sports nutrition community has taken notice of DHA’s ability to help speed recovery, increase gains and improve athletic performance.
DHA aids in the muscle recovery process as an anti-inflammatory agent and reduces DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), perceived pain and range of motion 48 hours post exercise.1These qualities, along with boosting blood and oxygen flow to muscles, may also decrease incidence of injury.
Increasing the amount of DHA you consume may help decrease muscle breakdown and increase protein synthesis by increasing the body’s muscle-building response to insulin and amino acids.2Fatty acids like DHA not only increase muscle gains, but may also increase the body’s level of calcium absorption, improving bone strength.3
A vital component in nerve endings, neurons and muscle membranes – DHA has been shown to improve reaction time of athletes during competition.4 DHA also decreases heart rate, which can help improve oxygen utilization during competition or tough workouts.5
- Tartibian B, et al. (2009). The effects of ingestion of omega-3 fatty acids on perceived pain and external symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness in untrained men. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, 19.(2),115-9.
- Smith G, et al. (2011). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids augment the muscle protein anabolic response to hyperaminoacidemia-hyperinsulinemia in healthy young and middle aged men and women. Clin Sci (Lond),121(6), 267–278.
- Maggio M, et al. (2009). The impact of omega-3 fatty acids on osteoporosis. Curr Pharm Des, 15(36),4157-64.
- Lewis E, et al. (2015). 21 days of mammalian omega-3 fatty acid supplementation improves aspects of neuromuscular function and performance in male athletes compared to olive oil placebo. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12,28.
- Mori T, et al. (1999). Docosahexaenoic Acid but Not Eicosapentaenoic Acid Lowers Ambulatory Blood Pressure and Heart Rate in Humans. Hypertension, 34, 253-260.