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A Novel Way to Recover Quicker

By Mary Dinehart-Perry

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is common among all triathletes from beginners to elite and tends to be more severe at the beginning of a training season, after a period of reduced activity, or with changes in intensity and duration.  Although numerous hypotheses exist as to why this may occur from lactic acid and muscle damage to inflammation, it is still unknown as to the best way to recover quicker (1). 

Varying results have been shown with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), massage, cryotherapy, stretching and electrical stimulation, while reducing the intensity and duration of exercise 1-2 days following DOMS is thought to be most effective (1).  A recent study may shed light on a novel way to address this issue.    

In a previous Fuel Station article, the well known anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil, rich in omega-3 fatty acids (primarily EPA and DHA) were addressed with regards to improvements in athletic performance. In healthy individuals supplemented daily with 2.5 grams of EPA and DHA for 35 days, there were significant improvements in inflammatory markers, as well as improved feelings of vigor and decreased negative mood associations such as anger, anxiety, fatigue, depression and confusion (2). In addition, supplementation with EPA and DHA was shown to significantly improve reaction times (3). Although the anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil are a relatively new concept with regards to athletic performance, reducing delayed muscle soreness may be one more benefit to add to its growing list. 

In a recent study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, untrained men were either placed into a fish oil (EPA and DHA), placebo or control group, and performed bench stepping training with an eccentric pattern. Indirect markers of muscle soreness were measured including perceived pain, thigh circumference (indicator of muscle inflammation), and range of motion in the knee joint. Compared to the placebo and control group, at 48 hours post exercise, individuals in the EPA and DHA group showed significant improvements in measures of perceived pain and range of motion, with decreases in thigh circumference at 24 to 48 hours post exercise (4).

All triathletes are plagued by muscle soreness at some point throughout their training schedule. While the data on other treatment strategies is inconclusive and may even mask pain to the point of injury (NSAIDS), supplementation with EPA and DHA proves to be a natural anti-inflammatory that improves recovery, overall enhancing personal performance.

Mary Dinehart-Perry MS, RD, LDN is the Clinical Trials Coordinator for Zone Labs Inc.

1. Cheung K, Hume P, Maxwell L.  Delayed onset muscle soreness: treatment strategies and performance factors.  Sports Med. 2003;33(2):145-64. Review.
2. Fontani G, Corradeschi F, Felici A, Alfatti F, Bugarini R, Fiaschi AI, Cerretani D, Montorfano G, Rizzo AM, Berra B.  Blood profiles, body fat and mood state in healthy subjects on different diets supplemented with Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.  Eur J Clin Invest. 2005 Aug;35(8):499-507.
3. Fontani G, Corradeschi F, Felici A, Alfatti F, Migliorini S, Lodi L.  Cognitive and physiological effects of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in healthy subjects.  Eur J Clin Invest. 2005 Nov;35(11):691-9.
4. Tartibian B, Maleki BH, Abbasi A.  The effects of omega-3 supplementation on pulmonary function of young wrestlers during intensive training.  J Sci Med Sport. 2009 Jun 10. [Epub ahead of print]

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