Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Sport Performance—Are They Equally Beneficial for Athletes and Amateurs? A Narrative Review

Frank Thielecke, Andrew Blannin

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Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically eicosapentanoic acid (EPA, 20:5n-3) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) are receiving increasing attention in sports nutrition. While the usual focus is that of athletes, questions remain if the different training status between athletes and amateurs influences the response to EPA/DHA, and as to whether amateurs would benefit from EPA/DHA supplementation. We critically examine the efficacy of EPA/DHA on performance, recovery and injury/reduced risk of illness in athletes as well as amateurs. Relevant studies conducted in amateurs will not only broaden the body of evidence but shed more light on the effects of EPA/DHA in professionally trained vs. amateur populations. Overall, studies of EPA/DHA supplementation in sport performance are few and research designs rather diverse. Several studies suggest a potentially beneficial effect of EPA/DHA on performance by improved endurance capacity and delayed onset of muscle soreness, as well as on markers related to enhanced recovery and immune modulation. The majority of these studies are conducted in amateurs. While the evidence seems to broadly support beneficial effects of EPA/DHA supplementation for athletes and more so in amateurs, strong conclusions and clear recommendations about the use of EPA/DHA supplementation are currently hampered by inconsistent translation into clinical endpoints.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3712
Number of pages28
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research received unconditional funding from Doetsch Grether AG for conducting the literature search and writing the manuscript.


  • Amateurs
  • Athletes
  • Injury
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Performance
  • Recovery
  • Sports nutrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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