Omega-3 fatty acids can help you bounce back from injury, according to a new study.
In it, young women took five grams of omega-3s or a placebo every day for four weeks while strength training and for two more weeks with one leg immobilized. Those who took the supplement lost significantly less muscle mass and regained it more quickly than those in the control group did.
Muscle damage from exercise stimulates protein synthesis, which rebuilds the broken fibers so they can come back bigger and stronger. When you’re injured, the lack of movement leads to muscle loss.
Fatty acids act as a replacement for that initial damage, triggering the repair process on their own, explains study author Chris McGlory, Ph.D., research fellow in the department of kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. In men, the effects might be slightly less apparent—separate research shows they process these fats differently.
Getting three daily grams of omega-3 fatty acids, the FDA-approved limit, from supplements or foods like mackerel and salmon will help you maintain muscle if you get injured. (Consult your doctor before adding them to your regimen.) You can also prioritize omega-3s once you’re sidelined, McGlory says, though it’ll take two weeks for the nutrients to reach your muscles.