DHA boosts cyclists' power numbers

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - Wavebreakmedia
©Getty Images - Wavebreakmedia

Related tags Sports nutrition products Sports nutrition sector Dha omega-3 Dha EPA and DHA omega-3

Amateur cyclists supplemented with a hefty dose of DHA improved their power output, a recent study has concluded.

The study, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition​, investigated how a high DHA omega-3 supplement could affect the performance of cyclists at a high level of output.  The research was conducted by a team from San Antonio Catholic University of Murcia in Spain.

The researchers recruited 50 amateur cyclists a double-blind, placebo controlled study.  The cyclists were all adults (at least 18 years of age) competing at a regional level and were training at least two to four times a week for at least one hour per session.  Seven cyclists from the intervention group and five from the placebo arm did not complete the study, leaving a total group of 38 subjects.

High DHA test material

The participants took a placebo consisting of vegetable oil softgels or the test material, which delivered 975 mg of DHA and 120 mg of EPA per day in the form of three softgels taken first thing in teh morning.  The participants took the placebo and test material softgels for 30 days.  The participants’ food intakes were measured via questionnaires, and the caloric intake was similar between the two groups at about 2,200 calories/day.

The cyclists each completed two cycling ergometer tests, which were structured as a stepped test to exhaustion.  One test measured baseline values, while the other came at the end of the study.

The cycling test was structured to test the cyclists’ capacity at ‘ventilatory threshold 2,’ something more commonly referred to as ‘lactate threshold’ in North America. This is the highest output an athlete can sustain for a period of minutes and is generally restricted by the buildup of lactate, a byproduct of cellular respiration, in the bloodstream.

Test group shows significant change

As it turns out, the test group was a higher performing group, producing more watts per kilogram than the placebo group as a whole.  But the test group improved their power output and the length of time they could continue the test before becoming exhausted, whereas the placebo group showed little to no change.  The test group went from 5.14 watts per kilogram of body weight a baseline to 5.20 W/kg after 30 days of high DHA intake.  The figures for the placebo group were 4.92 and 4.91, respectively. Similarly, the test group went from an average of 12 minutes and 56 seconds time to exhaustion at baseline, improving to 13’11” by the end.  The placebo group’s figures were 11’52” and 11’56” respectively.

“DHA in amateur cyclists may improve cycling performance by enhancing power output at the anaerobic ventilatory threshold 2. It is unclear if these findings are the result of the specific DHA supplement blend or another factor,”​ the authors concluded.

GOED: Study adds to growing body of sports performance data

Harry Rice, PhD, chief science officer of the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) said the study adds to a growing body of research on the effects of omega-3s on sports performance.

“Results from the present study are exciting and promising, because they add to a growing body of scientific literature substantiating the performance enhancing benefits of omega-3 for elite athletes. In general, it's important for athletes to recognize their passion results in increased demands on their bodies which may require even higher EPA/DHA intakes than the general population. If athletes want to optimize their performance, then it's time they understand the value of omega-3s (EPA/DHA),” ​Rice told NutraIngredients-USA.

Source: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
17​, Article number: 51 (2020)
Re-esterified DHA improves ventilatory threshold 2 in competitive amateur cyclists
Authors: Avila-Gandía V, et al.

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