Anyone who works out knows that muscle soreness is part of the process. We accept the prospect of having sore muscles after exercise because we know this is the price we pay for progress. Sore muscles are muscles that have been put through the paces for better performance and increased strength.
Many of us take supplements to help alleviate sore muscles. But it turns out that one of the best ways to treat sore muscles is with vitamin C. The same thing we have laying around for when we get a cold will also help fight sore muscles.
The benefits of vitamin C have been known for a long time. But new research shows that vitamin C can also treat sore muscles. We have known for decades that vitamin C is part of the bedrock of good nutrition. We have also known that vitamin C can be used to treat a variety of issues. Now we are finding out the sore muscles are one more thing that vitamin C can help treat.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is known scientifically as ascorbic acid. Vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation of blood vessels, cartilage, muscle, and the collagen in bones. Vitamin C also plays a central role in the body’s healing process.
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant. It helps protect cells against the damage from free radicals like tobacco smoke and even radiation. Free radicals cause heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. Getting enough vitamin C helps prevent these deadly diseases.
Since our bodies cannot produce vitamin C, we need to get it from dietary sources or a supplement. You can get enough vitamin C from your diet. Foods that are rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, berries, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and spinach. There are also numerous forms of vitamin C supplements.
Vitamin C deficiency is characterized by anemia, bleeding gums, bruising, and poor wound healing (this is also known as scurvy).
The recommended daily amount of vitamin C is 90 mg for adult men and 75 mg for adult women.
Vitamin C benefits
The benefits of vitamin C are many. Before turning to how vitamin C helps muscles, we should go over the primary benefits of vitamin C.
Reduces your risk of chronic disease
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. As an antioxidant, vitamin C works to reduce or prevent inflammation. This is important because many chronic diseases like arthritis are caused by inflammation.
One cause of inflammation in the presence of free radicals in the body. Free radicals come from the breakdown of some foods and from toxins that get introduced to the body through things like tobacco smoke. When free radicals accumulate in the body, they lead to what is called oxidative stress, and this causes unhealthy inflammation. Vitamin C binds with free radicals and helps eliminate them.
Research shows that consuming vitamin C increases blood antioxidant levels by as much as 30 percent. This helps the body fight inflammation and the chronic diseases that can come from inflammation.
Helps manage high blood pressure
About a third of Americans live with high blood pressure. This is a major cause of heart disease and the leading cause of death around the world.
Vitamin C can help lower blood pressure even for people who do not have high blood pressure. Studies show that vitamin C can help relax blood vessels and this can lower blood pressure.
Reduces the risk of heart disease
Several factors lead to common forms of heart disease. These include high blood pressure, high triglyceride or bad cholesterol levels, and low good cholesterol levels. Vitamin C can help reduce the risk of these problems.
In a study that tracked nearly 300,000 participants over 10 years, researchers found that those who took a vitamin C supplement of at least 700 mg every day had a 25 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who did not take vitamin C supplements. Further studies that tracked the effects of eating vitamin C-rich foods also found a substantially lower risk of heart disease.
Further research that focused on the effects of vitamin C on the problem of high triglyceride levels found that 500 mg of vitamin C per day can lower triglycerides to healthy levels.
Can lower levels of uric acid in the blood
A gout is a form of arthritis that happens when too much uric acid builds up in the blood. When there is an excess of uric acid, which as a waste product, it can form crystals that settle into the joints. This leads to the painful swelling condition known as gout. Gout affects about 4 percent of Americans.
Recent studies have found that vitamin C can reduce levels of uric acid in the blood. One study, in particular, found that taking vitamin C supplements lowered uric acid levels in men who suffered from gout.
In another study, researchers tracked almost 50,000 men for over 20 years who suffered from gout. This study found that men who took a vitamin C supplement had a 44 percent lower risk of gout.
Helps prevent iron deficiency
Among the many roles vitamin C plays in the body, one is to assist other nutrients in helping your body function properly. Vitamin C is essential in assisting iron in the making of red blood cells and transporting oxygen in the bloodstream.
Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron from your diet. It also helps convert iron that is not properly absorbed into usable iron. For example, some plant-based iron can be difficult for your body to absorb. These functions of vitamin C are especially helpful for vegetarians since they get their iron from plant-based sources.
Studies have shown that an iron supplement of 100 mg can even help fight anemia in children.
The main reason people take vitamin C supplements is to boost immunity. Vitamin C helps with the production of white blood cells called lymphocytes and phagocytes. These are the white blood cells that fight infections in your body.
The antioxidant properties of vitamin C also help protect these white blood cells from damage from free radicals. This provides a double benefit to your immune system.
Finally, vitamin C is immediately transported to your skin to protect against external damage. Thus, vitamin C provides three layers of protection against infection and illness.
Helps memory and cognition as we age
One of the debilitating problems that come as we age is dementia. More than 35 million people are affected by dementia worldwide. The loss of memory and clear thinking skills that characterize dementia can be debilitating.
One cause of dementia is oxidative stress brought on by the presence of free radicals. Oxidative stress causes inflammation in the brain, spine, and nerves and this increases the risk of developing dementia.
Since vitamin C is such a powerful antioxidant, it is now believed that the presence of vitamin C can reduce the oxidative stress that leads to dementia. What is more, recent research has found a link between low levels of vitamin C and the onset of dementia.
Following these findings, researchers have found that taking vitamin C supplements helps protect thinking and memory in older adults and may prevent the onset of dementia.
Other potential benefits of vitamin C
Since vitamin C has proven to be so valuable, research on the health benefits of vitamin C continues. Areas that show promise include:
- Prevents the common cold. While vitamin C appears to reduce the severity of colds and recovery time by 8% in adults and 14% in children, it does not prevent them.
- Reduces cancer risk. A handful of studies have linked vitamin C intake to a lower risk of several cancers. However, most studies have found that vitamin C does not affect the risk of developing cancer.
- Protects against eye disease. Vitamin C has been linked to reduced risks of eye diseases like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. However, vitamin C supplements do not affect or may even cause harm.
- May treat lead toxicity. Although people with lead toxicity appear to have low vitamin C levels, there is no strong evidence from human studies that show vitamin C can treat lead toxicity.
Sources of Vitamin C
Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C. Citrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato juice, and potatoes are major contributors of vitamin C to the American diet. Other good food sources include red and green peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe. Although vitamin C is not naturally present in grains, it is added to some fortified breakfast cereals. The vitamin C content of food may be reduced by prolonged storage and by cooking because ascorbic acid is water-soluble and is destroyed by heat. Steaming or microwaving may lessen cooking losses. Fortunately, many of the best food sources of vitamin C, such as fruits and vegetables, are usually consumed raw. Consuming five varied servings of fruits and vegetables a day can provide more than 200 mg of vitamin C.
Vitamin C and muscles
In addition to the many benefits of vitamin C for your general health, it is now known that vitamin C can help with building muscle, and it can help you recover from the kinds of high-intensity training that builds muscle.
Taking vitamin C near a workout, either before or after, helps reduce muscle soreness from intense training. A recent study showed that taking vitamin C just before, or immediately after, an intense workout reduces muscle soreness and reduces the amount of time needed to recover from muscle soreness.
What is more, vitamin C plays an important role in the production of naturally occurring anabolic steroids in the body. What this means is that the levels of anabolic steroids your body produces will determine how much muscle you can gain. By taking a simple vitamin C supplement, you help your body produce the anabolic steroids that lead to lean muscle and you get more out of your training.
Vitamin C dosage
The recommended daily dosage of vitamin C changes according to age, gender, and other factors. Here is the breakdown:
Children 1-3: 15 mg
Children 4-8: 25mg
Adolescents 9-13: 45 mg
Teens 14-18: 65-75 mg
Adult women: 75 mg
Adult men: 90 mg
Pregnant women (19 and older): 85 mg
Breastfeeding women (19 and older): 120 mg
Vitamin C side effects
While vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an essential nutrient, it's possible to have too much of it. If you follow the recommended daily allowance guidelines you should have no problems. But too much vitamin C can lead to the following issues:
- Abdominal cramps
Remember, for most people, a healthy diet provides an adequate amount of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is one of the old stand-by supplements. This is the vitamin our mothers told us to take, and it is the thing everyone will tell you to start taking whenever you start to get sick. For decades, vitamin C has been something of a cure-all.
Perhaps what is most remarkable about vitamin C is that our age-old faith in this vitamin is grounded in scientific facts. Vitamin C does prevent illness, and it is one of the bedrock nutrients we need to stay healthy.
Since vitamin C is so important, scientists continue to examine the potential benefits of vitamin C. We now know vitamin C can do more than ward off illness, it also fights heart disease and helps keep blood pressure in the normal range.
Even more, for people who do high-intensity training to build muscle, vitamin C also helps reduce soreness. It turns out vitamin C is also helpful in building muscle. Vitamin C helps your body produce the hormones necessary to build muscles.
We can get all the vitamin C we need from a balanced diet. There is such a wide variety of foods that are packed with vitamin C we should not have any problem getting all the vitamin C we need from our diet. If you feel you need more vitamin C for one reason or another, there are plenty of simple vitamin C supplements available.