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A–Z of nutritional supplements: dietary supplements, sports nutrition foods and ergogenic aids for health and performance Part 14
  1. P C Calder1,
  2. M R Lindley2,
  3. L M Burke3,
  4. S J Stear4,
  5. L M Castell5
  1. 1Institute of Human Nutrition, School of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  2. 2School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK
  3. 3Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, Australia
  4. 4Performance Influencers Limited, London, UK
  5. 5University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to L M Castell, Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, Oxford OX2 6HG, UK; lindy.castell{at}

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Introductory remarks

Part 14 covers issues related to fats. General health messages tell us that we consume too much fat; thus it might seem strange to include it as a potential supplement for sports performance. But fat, in the form of our body stores, provides a relatively unlimited pool of energy: a critical adaptation to training is to enhance our ability to transport it, take it up into the muscle and oxidise it during exercise. However, even the most highly trained athletes have not reached maximal capacity for fat oxidation during exercise, since it can be increased even further by consumption of a high-fat diet prior to the exercise. Although fat oxidation has limited capacity as a fuel source for the high-intensity activities that underpin success in most sports, if fat supplements or other products could increase fat utilisation at more moderate exercise intensities, it might provide a way to ‘spare’ muscle glycogen stores for the high-intensity phases of sport. Another aspect is to consider the roles that fats play apart from their contribution to body fuel. The ω-3 (n-3) fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), commonly known as fish oils because of their concentrated presence in some fatty fish, are of interest here because of a range of proposed physiological activities.

Fatty acids

P C Calder

Fatty acids are a major component of most diets and can be synthesised endogenously in the human body.1 They are found in all cells and tissues and are transported between tissues in the bloodstream. Fatty acids are usually linked to other structures, frequently but not exclusively by ester linkages, to form more complex lipids such as triglycerides, phospholipids and sphingolipids. Non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs), often called ‘free fatty acids’, circulate in the bloodstream and are an important source of energy for skeletal muscle and heart cells. …

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  • LB, SS, LC edited this part

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.