A study by Lembke et al., “Influence of Omega-3 (N3) Index on Performance and Wellbeing in Young Adults after Heavy Eccentric Exercise,” compared the Omega-3 Index of subjects with the incidence of DOMS, which for each participant was measured on a visual scale of 1-10 at 0, 24-, 48-, 72-, and 96 hours post-exercise.
Delayed onset muscle soreness is characterized as a type of soreness that is usually caused by a new or unaccustomed exercise. The onset of DOMS generally occurs within 24-48 hours following exercise, may be associated with swelling, tenderness and discomfort, and may be experienced up to 1 week following heavy exercise.
Healthy men and women over the age of 18 who were not currently taking any dietary supplements containing fish oil or omega-3 were allowed to participate in the study. Study subjects were given either an omega-3 dietary supplement (2.7 g EPA+DHA) each day (Group 1) or a placebo each day (Group 2) with food for 30 days prior to exercise.
After 30 days of supplementation, Group 1 (N=42) moved from an initial average Omega-3 Index of 3.6 up to 5.4 as measured at the start of the exercise portion of the intervention.
After 30 days of placebo, Group 2 (N=22) moved from an initial average Omega-3 Index of 3.8 to 3.9 as measured at the start of exercise.
The differences in delayed onset muscle soreness for each group were as follows (see chart below):
- The average DOMS measurement at 24 hours after exercise was 3.81 for those with an Omega-3 Index greater than 4 (Group 1) and 5.32 for those with an Omega-3 Index less than 4 (Group 2); approximately 28% lower DOMS for Group 1
- At 72 hours, DOMS was 2.19 for those with an Omega-3 Index greater than 4 and 4.36 for those with an Omega-3 Index less than 4; approximately 50% lower DOMS for Group 1
- At 96 hours, DOMS was 1.63 for those with an Omega-3 Index greater than 4 and 3.17 for those with an Omega-3 Index less than 4; approximately 49% lower DOMS for Group 1
Specific to exercise, the findings of this study “support the hypothesis that higher omega-3 tissue levels may have a protective effect on muscle cells during exercise and may act by reducing the inflammatory response and subsequent DOMS.”