Since he took the swimming world by storm at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, at the tender age of 15, 2012 Olympic gold medallist Michael Phelps has become a source of inspiration to the millions of children worldwide living with ADHD.
Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 9 and used the swimming pool to burn off the excessive energy associated with the condition. ADHD is also associated with impaired ability to focus in some areas, particularly in the classroom, but also a lazer-like focus in areas the child finds more rewarding – Phelps chose to direct this “hyper focusing” to swimming rather than computer games, and the result is a record 19 Olympic medals by the age of just 27.
Omega 3 essential fatty acids are increasingly being used by parents to assist in managing ADHD, with the widely publicised “Durham Trials” in the UK pointing to the significant improvement of symptoms of ADHD when supplementing with omega 3-rich fish oil, eyeq™.
While it has not been established whether Phelps makes use of omega 3 supplements to manage his ADHD, it appears that fish oil, the most commonly prescribed - and universally accepted - natural supplement for ADHD, may also be giving sportsmen and women, professional or otherwise, an edge.
A growing body of evidence suggests that omega 3 may have a positive impact on the performance of athletes. Already known to protect the heart, liver, thyroid, nervous system and brain, to regulate hormone production and blood pressure and build a strong immune system, it seems there is still more to be discovered about omega 3, which cannot be produced by our bodies and has all but disappeared from our typical Western diet.
A study carried out at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania found that subjects taking omega 3 fish-oil supplements gained muscle mass, while another study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests that omega 3 may increase muscle protein synthesis – the process of building up muscle protein which leads to muscle growth.¹
Another study, this time in at the Urima University in Iran, found that male wrestlers supplementing with fish oil experienced a significant improvement in lung function and capacity, allowing them to train harder and for longer with a faster recovery.²
Researchers at reading University in the UK have found that fish oil increases levels of nitric oxide, which makes blood vessels more flexible and allows more oxygen and nutrients into the muscles, increasing energy and endurance during workouts.³
In yet another study, researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that omega-3 fatty acids may decrease inflammation by diminishing the production of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances associated with inflammation in the body. This has very positive implications for athletes undergoing high-intensity training that is often associated with the risk of pain and injury, and poor recovery.4
While research into the remarkable healing and protective properties of omega 3 continues, all evidence to date suggests that supplementing with a high quality omega 3-rich fish oil will boost performance in the pool, on the field and in the gym.
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults
- PubMed: The effects of omega-3 supplementation on pulmonary function of young wrestlers during intensive training
- Clinical Nutrition: Long-chain omega 3-PUFA-rich meal reduced postprandial measures of arterial stiffness
- Science Daily: Anti-Inflammatory Effects Of Omega 3 Fatty Acid In Fish Oil Linked To Lowering Of Prostaglandin