My friends! I’m so sorry about last week, but I was in the middle of studying for my hardest exam (clinical) and I just couldn’t get up anything for Friday. Many apologies. I will say that I still, and always, get my fitness on and I hope that for all of you doing exams that you don’t skimp out on the gym. Time is limited yes, but instead of scrolling through social media, take that hour and sweat out some endorphins. Your body and mind will thank you.
Cold and Flu Season Is Upon Us.
And so what better time than to highlight ….
An important vitamin, as they all are, but this guy ain’t just for cold and flus.
Yes, this water soluble vitamin does wonders for your immune system, but we are talking about fitness here, so what can it do for your athletic self to help with performance?
….okay we will start with immune function because obviously that can affect training…
Exercise Puts You At Risk For Infection?
It appears so. This article spoke of an altered immune system following intense exercise. Specifically, the body appears to release many inflammatory cytokines similar to a trauma or sepsis response for a short time following strenuous training. This response than sets you up to be more immunocompromised and open to getting sick. Although much of this was referring to research in endurance athletes, I don’t believe it would be crazy to say the same for strength based athletes, as you’re also causing trauma to the body and placing it under enough stress to cause cortisol release.
So where does Vitamin C fall into this equation? One study looking at ultra marathon runners found that high doses of Vitamin C (1500mg, but not 500mg) daily for a week prior to their race (and the day of their race) reduced their levels of circulating cytokines. So for athletes who cannot drop their training intensity, extra Vitamin C may be able to aid in decreasing their risk of potential illness.
The immune benefits of extra supplementation for athletes still needs further research but some of the early studies have shown promising findings towards a YAY for a protective benefit of a lil boost.
Role in Synthesis of Important Players for Physical Performance
This article presents a large list of the roles of vitamin C that definitely play a role in allowing your body to perform. Some of interest include:
~Synthesis of carnitine –> required to move fatty acids into the mitochondria. They can then be oxidized and used for energy.
~Synthesis of catecholamines –> These include epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are released during times of stress to create the ‘fight or flight’ response. This includes the mobilizing of glucose and an increase in blood pressure, heart rate and vessel dilation to get the nutrients to the muscle to allow them to keep performing.
Their role in synthesis is through being a reducing agent in their biosynthesis reactions
Preventing Oxidative Stress
Exercise is a stress. As a result, it is actually an oxidant and can lead to damage to your cells. Vitamin C has been studied for its role as a powerful antioxidant. In a review looking at oxidative stress in the formation of atherosclerosis, it was discussed that vitamin C reduced many oxidative mechanisms that contributed to atherosclerosis. These included:
~LDL oxidation –> via interacting with the free radicals that would oxidize LDL
~Reduction of the pro-oxidant, radical (oxidized) form of Vitamin E to a safe (reduced) and anti-oxidant version (α-tocopherol).
~Inhibiting leukocytes (immune factors) from binding to epithelial tissues. Adhesion is found to be related to athersclerosis.
This one is up in the air right now. This study presented both sides of the argument, but than did their own study to see if DOMS was reduced following eccentric exercises (which have been shown to cause trauma to the fibres and stress). They found that high doses (3g/d) of vitamin C taken 2 weeks prior and 4 days following the exercises decreased their levels of DOM and oxidized glutathione levels in the plasma, which is an indicator of oxidative stress.
So, from all of the research addressed here, there is some support for the use of higher doses of Vitamin C to protect from the negative effects of exercise and thus allow for continued intensity. This is all fine and dandy, but of course there are always going to be studies that show the opposite. This study, for example, presented an argument against taking supplements of vitamin C as it apparently was found to decrease training efficiency due to to allowing for training-stimulated biological adaptations.
So take this with your usual suspicion, but I personally do take it for the proposed antioxidant effects, as I train very intensely and there has been research showing that athletes become depleted due to Vitamin C being used up more quickly.
It is also used up in times of other stress as well, mental and physical.
Do you take Vitamin C supplements?
Fun Fact. Yes the Orange is often the ‘vitamin C mascot’ but did you know that peppers are actually the highest in this vitamin? Others higher than your oranges are dark greens, broccoli, berries (strawberries) and kiwi. So maybe throw some orange segments in your next spinach salad for a double boost.