Vitamin C

Is an important antioxidant that is essential to obtain through our diets due to the inability of humans to produce the nutrient. The nutrient’s main uses are to support the immune system and protect against the damaging effects of free radicals, however there is much more to absorb about this essential nutrient. Yes Vitamin C is great to relieve colds and flu and to prevent time off training but it also has many more useful actions for cyclists…

 Adrenal Support

We all know high levels of exercise can lead to burnout if not supported correctly through diet and lifestyle balance. Especially when cyclists add work and personal life to the mix, your adrenals are what take a battering. Vitamin C is the ADRENAL NUTRIENT for supporting adrenal function and helping modulate cortisol, adrenalin production and utilisation. Therefore C assists in prevention of adrenal depletion, fatigue and burnout, which will support the body during intense training regimes.

 Healthy Joints & Muscles

Vitamin C is also critical for healthy connective tissue that results in supporting healthy and strong bones, joints and tendons. For cyclists it can be utilised for the formation of collagen, hence maintenance of major fibrous elements of blood vessels, skin, tendons, connective tissues and cartilage. Indicating the benefit of vitamin C to strengthen and support the joints and tissues in prevention of injury.

 Oxidation Effect

Strenuous exercise inflicts mechanical and metabolic stresses on the athlete’s body, this leads to inflammation and oxidative stress. Cyclists burn a lot of the body’s energy, which increases oxygen consumption in the tissues, and without adequate antioxidant support, increases the susceptibility of the tissues to oxidative stress. This oxidative stress plays a major role in the initiation and progression of damage to muscle fibres after exercise. In the instance of intense exercise training, the use of antioxidants (vitamin C), are necessary to prevent oxidative stress and muscle damage. Studies also suggest that pre-treatment with vitamin C can reduce muscle soreness, prevent blood glutathione oxidation, and reduces muscle damage through significant reduction in creatine kinase, especially in endurance exercises.

Interesting Note

Vitamin C improves heat and cold tolerance of athletes, which can benefit those chilly mornings of winter and scorcher days of summer.

Other C Uses:  

  • Increases iron absorption
  • Promotes wound healing
  • Strengthens integrity of capillaries and vesicles
  • Immune stimulating
  • Antihistamine
  • Cofactor for the production of noradrenaline and serotonin
  • Prevention of sunburn
  • Aids the maintenance of healthy gums

Which Type of Vitamin C is BEST for Cyclists?

Ascorbic Acid: is the most acidic form of vitamin C that can irritate the gut, especially when taken with Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) leading to possible ulceration. It can also cause bloating and digestive upset. For cyclists it is best avoided, as adding acidic formulations to the body is not ideal.

Sodium Ascorbate: When mineral salts of vitamin C are consumed, both the ascorbic acid and mineral are absorbed. Sodium Ascorbate should be cautioned and avoided if you consume electrolyte drinks regularly. As increased sodium in the absence of adequate potassium can result in electrolyte imbalance and elevated sodium levels, thus a important note about this type of C that cyclist should be aware of.

Magnesium and Calcium Ascorbate: These two types of C are perfect for cyclists, as they are buffered thus are non-acidic. These buffered forms of vitamin C are less irritating to the stomach than ascorbic acid and will not affect the gut or irritate the lining. Additionally the magnesium and calcium will be easily utilised by the body pre or post cycle.

Vitamin C with bioflavonoids: Many bioflavonoids are antioxidants and are added to vitamin C formulas in belief to increase the bioavailability and utilisation of vitamin C. Most commonly, bioflavonoids are sourced from citrus fruits.

How much Vitamin C?

Increase uptake and bioavailability of C: Vitamin C is best taken in smaller doses frequently throughout the day to increase absorption in the body, rather than in large doses. These small doses are 200mg and can have up to 2000mg per day in total. It is easy and beneficial to simply add the water soluble C to your water bottle and drink throughout the day. Even combining with your magnesium powder for muscle recovery. A key indicator of excessive vitamin C consumption is diarrhoea. So if this happens, simply reduce your intake and separate the doses. Alternatively and recommended is seeking vitamin C through your dietary intake is a great way to easily absorb the nutrient in foods such as red capsicum, berries, guava, kiwi fruit, lemon, oranges, broccoli, kale, pineapple, pawpaw and tomatoes. So with summer upon us these fruits are easily available and make tasty nutritional snacks throughout the day.

Vitamin C for Cyclists

Medications that Decrease uptake

The following medications reduce the cellular uptake of vitamin C into the tissues; corticosteroid medications, cyclosporin, oral contraceptives and tetracyclines

Vitamin C / Drug interactions

If taking the following pharmaceutical drugs it is advised that you separate the dose of vitamin C at least 2 hours away from taking the drugs, as the vitamin C may lower the absorption of the medication. These drugs are Aspirin, Acetaminophen, Loop diuretics (furosemide), Beta blockers, Tetracyclines.

Vitamin C is a complex and fundamental vitamin

Ensuring a sufficient daily intake is vital for cyclist nutritional health and prevention on conditions that can affect your cycling. Choosing the correct vitamin C that suits your needs is essential and assists cyclists in order to improve recovery, restore immune responses, counteract oxidative stress and inflammatory responses.

Talita McCleverty

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Talita is a Naturopath based on the Sunshine Coast. Her journey into the field of Natural Medicine started when she enrolled at the Australian Institute of Applied Science in Brisbane to study massage, aromatherapy and lymphatic drainage. After completing her study she started work in the industry & developed a wonderful client base. As her interest in the Natural Health Industry grew she decided to further her studies and enrolled in a Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy) at Endeavour College of Natural Medicine. Exercise & healthy nutritious eating has become an inspiration in her way of life and she remains dedicated to sharing and educating others in the fields of Natural Medicine, Nutrition & Exercise.