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Vitamin C

Everyone knows about vitamin C. It’s natural, it’s healthy, and you take it when you get sick, yet there is a lot more to this essential vitamin. It is something we need to acquire from our diet due to our body not being able to synthesize it, unlike other non-essential vitamins.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it does not accumulate in our body like fat-soluble vitamins, and as a result excess levels are excreted through urine. When users “megadose” vitamin C, they may notice extremely bright colored urine as a result of the majority of their dose is excreted.

What it does

Most importantly, supplementing your diet with vitamin C (most commonly in the form of l-ascorbic acid) increases plasma vitamin C levels extremely efficiently. At a dose of 60mg/day vitamin C prevents scurvy[1], an illness which traditionally preyed on sailors who had little to no access to foods containing vitamin C. Thankfully scurvy is rarely seen with average modern diets.

Vitamin C is typically associated with the ability to reduce the incidence of the common cold. Numerous studies, however, show that it is incapable of doing so in the normal population, but can work in those who experience severe physical exertion and are exposed to extreme cold[2].

Athletes who supplement with vitamin C note small but significant decreases in muscle damage following exercise[3]. Numerous studies discuss vitamin C’s role as an anti-oxidant[4], however, it is also classified as a pro-oxidant depending on dose and timing[5].

Adults using vitamin C in conjunction with a caloric deficit and exercise protocol may note a reduction in perceived exertion and reduced fatigue [6].

How it works

Vitamin C is commonly recognized for its anti-oxidizing properties. Antioxidants are revered for their ability to neutralize dangerous compounds known as “free radicals” which can cause cell mutation and a multitude of illnesses such as cancer.

Free radicals are dangerous because they contain unpaired electrons, making them unstable. The instability forces free radicals to “attack” other cells in the body and steal the electrons needed to stabilize themselves. Once a healthy cell loses an electron in this manner, it becomes unstable itself, resulting in potentially unwanted mutations.

Antioxidants like vitamin C neutralize this threat by freely offering up extra electrons they possess to free radicals, allowing them to stabilize without needing electrons from cells in our body. As a result, our cells are left alone, and the free radical can be removed from the body without interacting with our cells.

Dosing

Minimum suggested dosing of vitamin C is 60mg/day. Athletes should aim for up to 2,000mg/day taken in one dose per day to help maximize the immune system. Although suggested by many, “megadosing” vitamin C (over 2,000mg/day) is not backed by science and is not suggested for optimal result.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19519673
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15495002
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18427418
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12569111
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25307916
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22677357