Tip: Combat Muscle Loss With This Fat

Catabolism is the enemy. Here's an easy way to smack it down.

Yet Another Benefit of Omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with a wide range of health-promoting benefits including increased insulin sensitivity, reduced inflammation, neuro and cardio-protection and even anti-depressive properties.

And here's another, little known reason to get plenty of omega-3s: They can promote anabolism (gains, bro) and reduce catabolism (muscle wasting, bro). Omega 3s in combination with an anabolic stimulus have been shown to have promising effects in human studies.

The Study

Researchers wanted to determine the influence of omega-3s on muscle mitochondrial physiology and protein metabolism in older adults. Young (18-35) and old (65-85) men and women were studied at baseline. The older adults were studied again following 16 weeks of omega-3 supplementation (3.9g/day). Muscle biopsies were preformed following resistance training at 15 and 18 hours post exercise.

Following omega-3 supplementation, researchers observed that mixed muscle, mitochondrial, and sarcoplasmic protein synthesis rates were increased in older adults before exercise. Omega-3 increased post-exercise mitochondrial and myofibrillar protein synthesis in older adults.

This is promising for older lifters because they can help combat the effects of age-related anabolic resistance by supplementing with omega 3s. Interestingly, research even shows that younger people can benefit from these anabolic effects.

The Other Study

Healthy young and middle-aged folks supplemented with 4 grams per day of omega-3s for 8 weeks. The researchers found that after omega-3 supplementation, the anabolic response to insulin and amino acid infusion was increased. In addition, the muscle protein concentration and the protein to DNA ratio (muscle cell size) were both greater after supplementation.

How's It Work?

The exact mechanisms for why this anabolic effect is taking place is unclear. Some research has indicated that in combination with an anabolic stimulus, the mTOR pathway's activation gets augmented. Other researchers link this muscle-building effect to the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s or increased amino acid utilization because of the enhanced insulin sensitivity.

Lifters would be wise to incorporate omega-3-rich foods like fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, halibut), seeds (chia, flaxseed, pumpkin, hemp) and nuts, free range beef, dairy, and eggs.

Another strategy is supplementing omega-3s with essential amino acids after strength training to further boost the anabolic effects.


  1. Lalia, A. Z., Dasari, S., Robinson, M. M., Abid, H., Morse, D. M., Klaus, K. A., & Lanza, I. R. (2017). Influence of omega-3 fatty acids on skeletal muscle protein metabolism and mitochondrial bioenergetics in older adults. Aging. doi:10.18632/aging.101210
  2. Smith, G., Atherton, P., Reeds, D., Mohammed, B., Rankin, D., Rennie, M., & Mittendorfer, B. (2011). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids augment the muscle protein anabolic response to hyperinsulinaemia–hyperaminoacidaemia in healthy young and middle-aged men and women. Clinical Science, 121(6), 267-278. doi:10.1042/cs20100597
Erick Avila is a strength and conditioning coach and nutritionist. He works with top-ranked professional boxers in areas ranging from general weight loss to hormone optimization. Follow Erick Avila on Twitter