Vitamin C Can Help Reduce the Damage Done by Exercise!

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

Vitamin C plays an important role in exercisePhysical training increases oxidative damage to cell and muscle tissues of our body. Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant that reduces the amount of oxidative damage caused by exercise. Proper amounts this nutrient therefore release and ensure that the amount of damage to our system during exercise is limited.

Research has shown that athletes involved in strength training need to consume more than the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of 65 mg because Vitamin C forms a critical block in building strength and muscle. Vitamin C is needed to maintain the strength of tendons and ligaments and is also essential for adrenaline synthesis (the hormone crucial for intense training). In addition, Vitamin C helps adrenal gland function and keeps the body in homeostasis. It enhances cortisol balance in the body, which is of critical importance because cortisol is a catabolic hormone where it causes muscle breakdown in all tissues. Having proper amounts of natural cortisol secretion in the body from the adrenal glands will help to mitigate this problem. During exercise, tearing of tissue is inevitable, leading to various release of toxins. Vitamin C is a well known and perhaps one of the best anti-toxins available as a natural compound. High doses of Vitamin C offer a significant advantage to athletes or those undergoing muscular and physical rehabilitation.

Studies into Vitamin C and Exercise

A study was conducted by University of North Carolina in the year 2006, where 70 people were asked to do a series of elbow extensions with a non-permanent arm. For 2 weeks before the exercise and 4 days after, half the participants took 3 grams of C daily in divided doses. The other half took a placebo. It was found that the Vitamin C group reported less muscle sourness immediately after exercise before and 24 hour afterwards than the placebo group. The group provided the vitamin also showed to have lower levels of creatine kinase, which is a compound that indicates muscle breakdown. At one time it was thought that muscle sourness after exercise was due to the build up of lactic acid in the muscle. This excess acid is recirculated into glucose within an hour or two. It has not been shown that the discomfort also called as the “delayed onset muscle sourness” comes from actual breakdown of muscle tissue. Under heavy load for extended periods of time, muscle fibers get microscopic tears when inflammation sets in, which explains why anti-inflammatory compounds relieves muscle sourness so well. The body releases Vitamin C to build connective tissues along with other amino acids. High levels of vitamin C therefore is absolutely necessary to help rebuild the collagen structure essential for ligament and tendon repair.

In another study, researchers have shown that vitamin C also helps the muscle recover much faster after stressful situation. Scientists at University of Birmingham divided a group of volunteers into 3 groups. Group one took 400 mg of vitamin C daily, group two took 400 mg of vitamin E and group three took a placebo. After 3 weeks, each group was asked to perform a step-in exercise for 60 minutes, after which the researchers measured the muscle strength and degree of fatigue. They found that the group taking the C exhibited 85% more post exercise recovery than the other 2 groups. For muscle sourness, natural compounds such as vitamin C is especially effective. To test the effect of C in preventing muscle sourness, researchers at the Western States Chiropractic College gave 3000 mg of vitamin C to a group of students; another group received a placebo. After both groups of students had been taking supplements for 3 days, the students who took Vitamin C had significantly less muscle sourness post exercise as compared to the group that took placebos.

The body benefits from proper levels of vitamin CIn another study conducted by the University of North Carolina, Vitamin C supplementation was given before and after eccentric exercise to see whether it could reduce muscle sourness, oxidative stress and muscle function. Eighteen healthy men randomly assigned to either a placebo or the vitamin took 3 grams a day for 2 weeks prior and 4 days after performing eccentric elbow extensions with their dominant arm. Muscle sourness increased in both groups but there was significant reduction in muscle sourness for the first 24 hours with vitamin C. Range of motion was reduced for both groups equally after the exercise. Muscle sourness declined equally and was unaffected by treatment. Vitamin C attenuated the creatine kinase increase at 48 hours after the exercise. Glutathione ratio (Oxidised glutathione / Total glutathione) was significantly increased before 24 hours but vitamin C prevented this change.

Vitamin C supplements should be part of a comprehensive exercise rehabilitation program where muscle integrity is compromised.

The preferred method of delivery is liposomalized C rather than oral tablet, powders, or capsules due to drastic cell absorption enhancement properties and bioavailability of the liposomal C.

Vitamin C plays an important role in exercise