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Can omega-3s modulate the mind-muscle connection?

While strength gains are usually associated with protein and muscle-related ergogenics, the nervous system isn’t targeted as often. This study explored a different type of omega-3 source (seal oil) for neuromuscular exercise effects.

Study under review: 21 days of mammalian omega-3 fatty acid supplementation improves aspects of neuromuscular function and performance in male athletes compared to olive oil placebo

Introduction

Our brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system, which is in charge of directing bodily actions and movements. This occurs through the stimulation of motor nerves that are attached to muscle fibers. In essence, our brain decides how forcefully and how often our muscles contract, but the extent to which these commands are carried out depends on the relationship between the motor neurons and the muscles, or the neuromuscular system.

This concept is illustrated by the massive strength gains untrained individuals experience when they begin structured resistance training. While overt changes in muscle tissue appear with time, muscle growth cannot fully explain the strength gains experienced during the early phases of resistance training. Rather, alterations to motor unit activation and an increase in neuromuscular efficiency[1] allow for a greater ability to generate force and resist fatigue.

Biologically, omega-3 fatty acids are an important component of nerve and muscle membranes that have been increasingly recognized for their role in the promotion of neuronal health[2]. However, investigations into exercise adaptations have focused primarily on skeletal muscle, leaving nutritional modulation of the neuromuscular system relatively unexplored. The study under review was designed to determine if short-term omega-3 fatty acid supplementation has an ergogenic effect through adaptations in the neuromuscular system.

Omega-3 fatty acids may help promote strength gains, in part by improving communication between the nervous systems and muscles, which can ultimately influence muscle strength. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of short-term omega-3 supplementation on the neuromuscular system.

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