Fitness is important all year round, but at the beginning of each new year, we often seem to take the time to re-focus on our fitness goals. To help you keep your promise to yourself to exercise more, or more effectively, in this new year, consider information about nutrients and physical activity in the following studies on omega-3s, proteins, and select vitamins and herbs.
Omega-3s slow muscle-loss after injury
After an injury, when a cast or brace immobilizes part of the body, muscles can shrink, or atrophy. In this study, 20 healthy, recreationally active women, aged 19 to 31, took a placebo or 2,970 mg of EPA plus 2,030 mg of DHA per day. To simulate an injury, doctors applied a knee brace to immobilize one leg. The women ate only food supplied by the study, measured to provide 0.45 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
After two weeks, doctors removed the casts, returning the women to normal activities for a two-week recovery period. While both groups had lost muscle mass during immobilization, those taking the omega-3 fish oil lost significantly less compared to placebo. After returning to regular activity, only the omega-3 group regained full skeletal muscle volume. Doctors concluded omega-3s may offset muscle atrophy and promote recovery after disuse, such as in elective surgery or injury. Reference: FASEB Journal; 2019, Vol. 33, No. 3, 4586-97
Omega-3, inflammation, reaction time, and mood
This is the first systematic review of fish oil studies of recreational, professional, and Olympic-level athletes, covering 32 placebo-controlled trials. Participants were 25 years of age on average, and 70 percent were men. Doses ranged from 300 to 2,400 mg of EPA and 400 to 1,500 mg of DHA, per day.
The studies most often measured inflammation after exercise, which consistently showed fish oil reduced the inflammatory factors TNF-alpha, and creatine kinase. Fish oil also increased nitric oxide, a natural molecule that helps relax and dilate blood vessel linings, lowering blood pressure. Studies also evaluated cognition, which revealed positive effects on reaction time and mood states, across many different sports including cycling, gymnastics, karate, rugby, and soccer, among others. Reference: Advances in Nutrition; May, 2020, nmaa050, Published Online
Intense physical training in winter increases chances for URTI. In this study, doctors gave 25 male taekwondo athletes a placebo or 5,000 IU of vitamin D per day during the four-week winter training session.
Vitamin D levels rose 255 percent in the vitamin D group and remained unchanged for placebo. Also compared to placebo, among those who came down with URTI, the vitamin D group reported 40 percent less severe symptoms including sneezing, runny nose, and coughing. Athletes also answered questionnaires about quality of life, which scored 27.8 percent higher for the vitamin D group compared to placebo. Reference: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health; 2018, Vol. 15, No. 9
Vitamin D in the NFL
Low levels of vitamin D cause muscles to atrophy and impair the ability to contract properly. In this study during the 2015 National Football League season, doctors studied 214 skilled position athletes, 78 percent of whom were African American. Vitamin D levels in the African American players averaged 29.5 nanograms per milliliter of blood (ng/mL) compared to white players at 34.0 ng/mL.
During the season, 11 of the 13 players that missed a game due to injury had low vitamin D levels. Players with vitamin D levels below 32 ng/mL were 86 percent more likely than players with at least 32 ng/mL to have a lower extremity strain or core muscle injury, and were also three times as likely to pull a hamstring muscle.
Doctors said regularly screening levels and supplementing with vitamin D could help prevent injury not only in professional athletes, but in the general population, 40 percent of which may be deficient in vitamin D. Reference: Arthroscopy Journal; April, 2018, Vol. 34, 1280-5
Fenugreek boosts muscle mass, strength
Fenugreek has over 100 phytochemicals that provide a range of health benefits. This sports study included 138 non-smoking men, aged 25 to 47, some healthy weight, some overweight. The men took a placebo, 300 mg, or 600 mg of fenugreek extract per day, while participating in a whole-body calisthenic program three times per week.
After eight weeks, all three groups had improved maximal leg-press weight, with both fenugreek groups improving more than placebo. The 600 mg group saw functional threshold power increase over placebo by 7.6 watts.
Also at eight weeks, compared to the start of the study, the 600 mg fenugreek group saw testosterone levels increase, body mass decrease by 2.6 pounds, body fat decline 1.4 percent, and lean muscle mass increase 1.8 percent. Reference: Translational Sports Medicine; 2020, Vol. 3, No. 4, 2.153
Collagen peptides plus training
Muscle contains hundreds of proteins, and doctors wanted to see if collagen—the main structural protein in the body—along with resistance training, would influence the protein makeup of muscle. In this study, 25 men, average age 24, with a healthy weight and a good ratio of fat-free mass to fat mass, took a placebo or 15 grams of collagen hydrolysate per day within one hour of completing resistance training designed to build muscle. There were three training sessions per week over the 12-week study period.
Both groups saw increases in strength, with strength in the collagen group increasing slightly more than placebo. Analyzing protein levels, doctors found higher levels of 221 proteins in the collagen group compared to 44 for placebo. Most of the increased proteins in the collagen group were responsible for controlling muscle contraction. Reference: Nutrients; 2019, Vol. 11, No. 5, 1072
Whey protein speeds recovery
During high-intensity exercise, the brain competes with the body for oxygen, reducing performance. In this study, 15 Division I collegiate basketball players consumed whey protein as 36 percent of total calories or 12 percent of total calories, in a carbohydrate-based drink right after a one-hour intense cycling challenge.
After resting for two hours, they repeated the exercise at a slightly higher intensity until exhausted. Those in the high-protein group had better brain oxygenation and less demand for blood to the brain, and cycled 16 percent longer than those in the low-protein group. Reference: Nutrition Journal; 2018, Vol. 53, 34-7
Creatine with electrolytes
Most people that take creatine for building muscle take it alone. Doctors thought combining creatine with electrolytes could increase creatine absorption and transport into muscle. In this study, 22 recreationally trained men and women, average age 21, took a placebo or 4 grams of creatine, 857 mg of phosphorus, 286 mg of magnesium, 171 mg of calcium, 171 mg of potassium, and 111 mg of sodium per day.
After six weeks, those taking the creatine combination saw improved bench press maximal strength of 5.9 percent compared to 0.7 percent for placebo. In a one-repetition maximum back squat, the creatine group saw a 13.4 percent increase in maximal strength compared to 0.2 percent for placebo. Reference: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition; 2019, Vol. 16, Article No. 24
Best of wishes for a healthy, safe new year. Remember, we strive at BetsyHealth to offer you the supplements and supplement answers you need to help you and your family reach the goals that mean the most, those that involve your health.
BetsyHealth Note: This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. Check with your healthcare provider before taking a supplement, especially if you have a medical condition, including being pregnant or nursing, or take prescription or over-the-counter medications. For example, many supplements thin blood and amino acids can be contraindicated with certain conditions. Many herbs are contraindicated with medications or can lower blood sugar or raise blood pressure, etc.
Article copyright 2020 by Natural Insights for Well Being. All rights reserved. Used with permission.