While fish oil doesn't directly support muscle growth like protein does, it certainly can play a role in muscle development for bodybuilders. According to the Mayo Clinic, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil help reduce levels of triglycerides in your bloodstream, lower the risk of heart attack and slow atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries. These are great cardiovascular benefits, but fish oil may also help benefit muscle development as well. Before taking fish oil supplements, consult your doctor.
You can obtain fish oil in your diet two ways – supplements or whole food sources. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average adult can benefit from fish oil by eating fish twice per week. This would include fatty fish, such as halibut, salmon, tuna and whitefish. As a bodybuilder, you may find it more practical to consume fish oil as a supplement, but consult your doctor before doing so. The Mayo Clinic states that up to 3 grams of fish oil per day is GRAS, or generally classified as safe.
Dr. Mauro Di Pasquala, a world-renowned expert on nutrition and sports medicine, states there may be a connection between fish oil and muscle health. He says the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are particularly beneficial. These essential fatty acids (EFAs) slow down, or even inhibit, muscle proteolysis, according to Di Pasquala. Muscle proteolysis is the breaking down of muscle proteins, which is what bodybuilders are trying to avoid.
Your body releases growth hormone (GH) primarily while you sleep. For bodybuilders, increasing the levels of GH is critical, since this hormone plays a significant role in muscle growth. According to Dr. Di Pasquala, omega-3 fatty acids help form prostaglandin E1, which in turn helps increase the rate of GH released into your body. This can indirectly help you build muscle, assuming you're taking in an adequate amount of protein throughout the day.
There's no standard dosage recommendation for bodybuilders. However, a higher-than-normal dosage of fish oil may be beneficial for bodybuilders. One instance that supports this fact is an account with one of the world's top strength coaches, Charles Poliquin. He trains pro athletes and Olympians regularly, and in this case was training an NFL player. He recommended the player consume 30 grams of fish oil per day – far beyond that recommended for the average person – and the player gained 29 pounds of lean muscle mass within a month. Keep in mind that this is an extreme case, and your results may vary. Check with your doctor before taking this amount of fish oil each day. It does carry potential health risks and is not safe for everyone.