Athletes know that good nutrition is necessary to gain the most benefits from exercise and protect the body from injury. However, recent sports medicine research indicates that taking supplements of vitamin C and E is less effective than getting the nutrients from food sources.
The New York Times reported that “antioxidant vitamin are enormously popular with people who exercise.” However, the newspaper noted in its “Well” blog, the supplements “might be counterproductive to certain types of exercise, including running and other endurance sports.”
Research by scientists at the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, published in November in The Journal of Physiology, found that athletes who took vitamin C and E pills got bigger muscles, but gained less strength, than those in the control group.
“Aerobic exercise and strength training lead to the production of free radicals, molecules that in concentrated amounts can cause tissue damage,” the Times explained. “Antioxidants sop up and neutralize free radicals. So, the thinking goes, taking antioxidant should lessen some of the damage and soreness after exercise and allow people to train harder.”
To test the theory, researchers gave large doses of the vitamin to endurance athletes. The outcome was “a slightly smaller training response,” according to the Times. The volunteers had lower levels of the enzymes that encourage production of mitochondria in muscle cells, which creates cellular energy. Without sufficient amounts of that energy, a person cannot exercise as intensely or for as long.
The 32 participants in the Norwegian study were weight trainers, rather than endurance athletes like runners and cyclists. The activities involve different biochemical processes in the muscles. Half of the volunteers took vitamin C and E pills before and after their resistance training each day. The others consumed no supplements.
The experiment continued for 10 weeks, with weights being gradually increased. After five weeks, and at the end of the study, the scientists took muscle-tissue samples to measure muscle size and strength. They found that muscles had grown about the same for members of both groups.But those who took antioxidants gained less strength, and “had reduced levels of substances known to initiate protein synthesis,” the Times reported. The synthesis is crucial to the repair and strengthening of muscles after weight training.
As a result of their research, Dr. Goran Paulsen and his colleagues recommended that neither joggers nor weight trainers should take high dosages of the pills.
The scientists wrote: “Vitamin C and E supplementation interfered with the acute cellular response to heavy-load resistance exercise and demonstrated tentative long-term negative effects on adaptation to strength training.”
The findings do not mean that athletes should neglect their nutritional needs (Prednisone). Experts advise them to eat balanced diets featuring plenty of vegetables and fruits, as well as whole grains and protein. Substances these items contain (like thiamin, riboflavin and niacin) enable the body to convert food into energy. Athletes also need to replenish the potassium, iron and calcium that are lost during exercise.
Eating fish twice a week is recommended because omega-3 fatty acids regulate inflammation and stabilize blood sugar. Magnesium (found in leafy greens, nuts, beans and dark chocolate) strengthens muscles and regulates heart rhythm.
Nutrition is important for athletes because it determines how much they get out of exercise. Consuming vital nutrients also empowers the body to resist injury. To learn more, and to find out how you can improve the value of your workouts, schedule an appointment for an evaluation by the nationally renowned sports medicine surgeons at Orthopedic Surgery San Diego.