For nearly 100 years, vitamin C has been praised as a wonder drug to fight off colds and prevent illness. Although scientists are still not 100% sure how effective it is, they do know that it is helpful. For these same kinds of reasons, athletes have been using it for generations as one of the most common supplements.
Many have even claimed that it can help boost performance. Although that may not be exactly true, taking Vitamin C can be useful if you are in serious training.
Why Vitamin C Is Useful
The reason why Vitamin C is beneficial in preventing cold and flu for everyone is the same reason why athletes need it. Serious training takes a toll on the body and as you push yourself to the limit, your immune system strains itself.
In 2013, scientists ran a massive trial that included more than 10,000 competitive runners, swimmers and even students. Each was given extra doses of vitamin C. Curiously, those who had generally sedentary lifestyles saw no difference in their rate of catching the cold or flu or recovery time.
However, taking Vitamin C cut the risk of catching a cold by nearly 50% for those who were in serious training. It also sped up the time it took to recover from the illness. This is critical for athletes because time is always essential and any time lost may jeopardize their competitiveness.
Where It’s not Useful — Endurance
This is where the myth has been almost completely busted. Although many athletes swear by taking a vitamin C supplement to boost performance, there is simply no data to support that claim. One study in 2014 conducted by the Norwegian School of Sport Science sought to understand how the common vitamins C and E played a role in training.
Dividing the test population into two groups: supplement versus placebo, the scientists made some interesting discoveries. The athletes who took the placebo actually tended to fare better on endurance tests than their supplement taking counterparts. The placebo group had better mitochondria growth (our cells little powerhouses) than the supplement group.
The scientist thus concluded that these vitamins may actually be suppressing mitochondrial growth and actually hurt performance. More research is necessary but for now they advise caution with taking any of these kinds of vitamins.
To C or not to C — That is the Question
So what is the best option for athletes? If you want to prevent illness during challenging training, then definitely take some. However, you do not need to max out and take anything in ridiculously high amounts. Your body will just eliminate it anyway. The best thing you can do is take a small supplement and have a well-balanced diet full of natural sources of vitamins and minerals.
If vitamin C doesn’t work then what do you do to boost your endurance? Let us know in the comments below.
Empower Yourself with a Free Assessment