Why are EFAs important for muscle growth?


Essential fatty acids help facilitate muscle growth in a number of ways. One such way is through the formation of eicosanoids –molecules which exert control over bodily systems such as immunity and inflammation, and act as molecular messenger in the CNS (central nervous system). Eicosanoids can also be classified into prostaglandins, leukotrienes and thromboxanes. Prostaglandins are of the most importance to muscle growth. They:

  • Increase sensitivity to insulin
  • Help maintain normal levels of testosterone – the primary, male androgen hormone
  • Increase the body’s secretion of growth hormone
  • Increase the synthesis of protein in muscle cells

These functions are critical to achieving muscle growth during intensive training. In addition, EFAs powerfully affect the formation of fat tissue and fat metabolism. All the Omega-3s increase the breakdown of body fat; they also encourage the body to burn stored fat as fuel.

Beyond the immediately apparent effects on muscle growth and body composition, essential fatty acids help reduce inflammation, heal injuries, speed recovery and strengthen the immune system (important when engaging in repetitive movement with heavy weights and physical exertion that can weaken immunity); and improve sleep, concentration, stamina, increase blood-oxygen levels and improve cardiovascular function (all of which lead to more effective and intense workouts).

Getting Enough

Research shows that to maximize muscle growth, decrease body fat and improve general health, men may consume between 3 and 3.5 grams of EFAs from all sources (food and supplements) daily; women may consume between 2.5 and 3 grams from all sources daily.


Essential fatty acids are found in foods and supplements. The downside of food sources is that many (fish and fully pastured – grass fed – cattle being exceptions) are higher in Omega-6 than Omega-3.

Supplementing with Optimum Nutrition’s Flaxseed Oil or Fish Oil remains the easiest way to get your daily recommended value of EFA’s.


Eating Frequency & Weight Loss

One popular weight loss theory suggests that if you eat five small meals spaced evenly throughout the day, you’ll burn more calories than you would sticking with the traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner. A study published in the journal Nutrition attempts to debunk that idea using 24 normal weight and obese female subjects between the ages of 34 and 42.

On one day, the subjects ate five meals and on another they sat down to just three. Because they consumed the same amount of calories over both 24-hour periods, they ended up burning the same number of calories. Researchers felt this demonstrated that frequent eating doesn’t increase the rate of metabolism.

True Strength Moment: While there may be some truth to these findings, eating balanced smaller meals more often throughout the day might be beneficial to very active adults trying to restore energy levels and promote muscle recovery between workouts. For interesting research on portion control, read today’s Performance Blog at ABBperformance.com