If you’re an avid cyclist, you’re probably familiar with the term VO2 Max. Simply put, VO2 Max measures your body’s ability to use oxygen. (“V” stands for volume, “O2” for oxygen, and “Max” for maximum.) Since oxygen helps fuel working muscles, the more oxygen you can use, the faster and longer you’ll be able to cycle.
The tried and true method of increasing VO2 Max is to train — hard. But a small study in cyclists indicates that taking omega-3 supplements can also give you a leg up (no pun).*
Polish researchers from the Academy of Physical Education and the Medical University of Silesia studied the effects of omega-3 supplementation (providing 1.3 grams of omega-3, twice daily — a whole lot of fish oil per day to be sure) versus placebo in 13 elite cyclists for three weeks.
The study, which was published in the European Journal of Sport Science last spring, had several key findings:
- First, the omega-3 supplement boosted concentrations of nitric oxide in the blood of the cyclists by 8 micromoles per liter compared to placebo. (To give you an idea of what that means, the reference values for nitric oxide range from 11.5 to 76.4 micromoles per liter among healthy, non-smoking adults.)
- Second, because nitric oxide relaxes the blood vessels, more nitric oxide meant greater blood flow. In fact, cyclists taking the omega-3s experienced a 5.25% increase in flow mediated dilation (FMD) compared to placebo.
- And finally, because improved blood flow means more circulating oxygen is available to working muscles, the increases in FMD were accompanied by a boost in VO2 Max.
You can get about 2.7 grams of omega-3 by taking two teaspoons of fish oil liquid or four high-potency fish oil capsules. (Vegetarian? No problem. One teaspoon of flax seed oil contains 2.5 grams of omega-3.) Your lungs — and by extension, your muscles — will thank you!
 Zebrowska A, et al. Eur J Sport Sci. 2015;15(4):305-314.
 Ghamesi A, Zahediasl S, Azizi F. Clin Biochem. 2010 Jan;43(1-2):89-94.