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Bulletin #145 – Vitamin C’s Performance Punch

When you read about vitamin C, it’s usually in reference to its cold-fight-ing power. But did you also know that vitamin C the most commonly supplemented nutrient in the United States 1 can perform some impor-tant performance-enhancing feats as well?

Parrillo Performance

That’s right. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, contributes to ath-letic performance in at least three possible ways as an antioxidant, a promoter of respiratory health, and a factor in endurance. Antioxidant ActionWith exercise, there’s a dramatic in-crease in the amount of oxygen used by your body. A fraction of this oxy-gen is converted into “free radicals.” Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that attack bodily tissues.2Fortunately, the body is equipped with a mighty defense team of substances known as antioxidants, which neu-tralize free radicals and prevent them from doing harm. Vitamin C is one of these antioxidants. It keeps free radicals from destroying the outer-most layers of cells and has the pow-er to regenerate vitamin E, another antioxidant.3Normally, free radicals don’t cause much of a problem.

But during stren-uous activity, free radicals can start outnumbering antioxidants a con-dition called “oxidative stress.” It leads to muscle tissue damage and in-flammation, increases the body’s con-sumption of antioxidants, and leaves you vulnerable to disease.4You may be able to ward off oxi-dative stress, however, by supple-menting with vitamin C. In a recent experiment, investigators discov-ered that oxidative stress was high-est when subjects did not supple-ment with vitamin C.5 Taking vitamin C, along with vi-tamin E, has been found to help muscles recover and regenerate more quickly following exercise which means you can get back in the game faster. In one study, researchers gave endurance athletes 1000 mg of vitamin C and 1000 IU of vitamin E a day, or placebos, in divided doses at lunch and dinner. The supplemented athletes showed about a 25 percent reduction in tis-sue damage .6 Further, vitamin C has been found to reduce the delayed muscle onset soreness (DOMS) felt in the 24 to 48-hour period follow-ing exercise.7Vitamin C also confers a heart-protective benefit, particularly if you’re a serious exerciser or endur-ance athlete .

Free radical production during very-intense exercise tends to oxidize low-density lipoproteins, otherwise known as LDL choles-terol (dubbed “the bad kind”), lead-ing to plaque build-up in the arter-ies. A study conducted with highly trained runners demonstrated that supplementing with 1 gram daily of vitamin C decreased the tendency of LDL cholesterol to oxidize.8Respiratory HealthIf you work out regularly or train for athletic competition, you know that a cold or respiratory infection can sideline you pretty fast. Vitamin C to the rescue . When ultramarathon runners supplemented with 600 milligrams of vitamin C a day for 21 days prior to a marathon, they experienced fewer upper respira-tory tract infections. This benefit may be due to vitamin C’s anti-oxidant effect, or to its overall immune-boosting capability.9Do you ever develop shortness of breath and wheezing after strenu-ous exercise? If so, you may have “exercise-induced asthma” (EIA). EIA affects an estimated 10 per-cent of all exercisers, and nearly all asthma sufferers. EIA symp-toms typically occur after about six to eight minutes of exercise and can last 20 to 30 minutes . 10

During an attack, tiny muscles wrapped around the outside of the bronchi (the two large tubes that branch out from the windpipe to the lungs), constrict in what is known as a “bronchospasm.” It’s difficult to breathe, your chest hurts, and you may wheeze.There are numerous preventa-tive treatments for EIA, and one of these is supplementation with vitamin C. Patients with asthma who supplemented with 500 mil-ligrams of vitamin C daily expe-rienced fewer spasms in response to exercise.11 A two-gram dosage taken one hour prior to exercise has demonstrated a protective effect too.12Endurance FactorsIf you take vitamin C, will you be able to bike farther, work out longer, or get across the finish line faster? Possibly. Scientists have discovered that hard-training athletes, specifical-ly endurance and ultraendurance athletes, often have low levels of vitamin C circulating in their bod-ies .13 If you’re deficient in vita-min C, your endurance will suffer a side effect confirmed by re-search .14 Deficiencies can be eas-ily prevented by supplementing with vitamin C and eating vitamin C-rich foods. The best sources of vitamin C in the diet are citrus fruits. Other foods, such as green and red peppers, collard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, spinach, potatoes, cantaloupe, and strawberries are also excellent sources.Supplemental Vitamin CTo ensure that you get the vitamin C your body demands, supplemen-tation is an excellent idea. Our Bio-C™ formula contains 1000 mg of vitamin per tablet, and is formu-lated with health-building Citrus Bioflavonoids (concentrate from lemons, oranges, grapefruit, limes, tangerines). Take one or more tablet daily, preferably with meals


1. Johnston C, et al. Comparison of the absorption and excretion of three commercially available sources of vitamin C. Journal of the American Dietetic Associa-tion. 1994;94:779-781.

2. Ji LL. Exercise, oxidative stress, and antioxidants. The American Journal of Sports Medicine . 1996;24:S20-S24.

3. Kanter MM. Free radicals, exer-cise, and antioxidant supplementa-tion . International Journal of Sport Nutrition. 1994;4:205-220.

4. Ji LL. Exercise, oxidative stress, and antioxidants. The Ameri-can Journal of Sports Medicine . 1996;24:S20-S24.

5. Alessio HM, et al. Exercise-in-duced oxidative stress before and after vitamin C supplementation. International Journal of Sport Nu-trition. 1997;7:1-9.

6. Kanter, MM. Antioxidants and oth-er popular ergogenic aids . From the proceedings of Nutritional Er-gogenic Aids, November 11-12, 1994, Chicago, Illinois.

7. Kaminski M, et al. An effect of ascorbic acid on delayed-onset mus-cle soreness . Pain. 1992;50:317-321 .

8. Sanchez-Quesada JL, et al. Ascor-bic acid inhibits the increase in low-density lipoprotein. Coronary Artery Disease. 1998;9:249-55.

9. Peters EM, et al. Vitamin C supple-mentation reduces the incidence of post race symptoms of upper-re-spiratory-tract infection in ultrama-rathon events. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1993;57:170-174 .

10. Mellion MB, et al. Exercise-in-duced asthma . American Family Physician. 1992;45:2671-2677.

11. Schachter EN, et al. The attenua-tion of exercise-induced broncho-spasm by ascorbic acid. Annals of Allergy. 1982;49:146-151.

12. Cohen HA, et al. Blocking effect of vitamin C in exercise-induced asthma . Archives of Pediat-rics and Adolescent Medicine. 1997;151:367-370.

13. Gerster H. The role of vitamin C in Athletic Performance. Jour-nal of the American College of Nutrition. 1989;8:636-643.

14. Witt EH, et al. Exercise, oxi-dative damage and effects of antioxidant manipulation. Jour-nal of Nutrition. 1992;122:766-773. Also: Johnston CS, et al. Substrate utilization and work efficiency during submaximal exercise in vitamin C depleted-repleted adults . International Journal for Vitamin and Nutri-tion Research. 1999;69:41-44.

2018-03-13T11:10:24+00:00 July 31st, 2009|Technical Supplement Bulletins|

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