Effect of eicosahexanoic acid and docosahexanoic acid on exercise performance

Eisuke Ochi, Ph.D.


Associate Professor, Faculty of Bioscience and Applied Chemistry, Hosei University, Japan



Nutritional intake is important for improving and maintaining performance in sports competitions and exercise interventions. Fish oil contains large amounts of the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are known in particular to improve fatigue recovery and endurance performance, as well as maintain immune function. In addition, exhaustive or unaccustomed exercise causes muscle dysfunction and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), resulting in decreased exercise performance. Meanwhile, oxidative stress and inflammatory reactions occur. Previous studies have investigated these topics as omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are anticipated to be effective against such reactions.


We previously found that EPA and DHA supplementation for eight weeks ameliorated reductions in muscular and neuromuscular function, development of DOMS, and limited range of motion (ROM) following eccentric exercise in humans and rats. We have also investigated the influence of EPA and DHA supplementation on peripheral muscle endurance performance in humans. The results revealed that the reduction in muscle work output during concentric exercise was attenuated in the EPA group than that in the placebo group. In addition, supplementation of EPA and DHA causes inhibition of the reduction in ROM and increase in muscle swelling after concentric exercise. On the basis of our results, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have positive benefits for exercise and can be widely applied to obtain higher exercise performance.