Wherever health and nutrition tips are given out, whether in elementary schools or doctor’s offices, vitamin C is a recurring topic. When winter comes around and noses start to drip, the push for vitamin C gets even stronger. “Eat your oranges and take your vitamins,” they say “because vitamin C is great for your immune system and can keep you healthy.” Then over the past decade or so, as discussion of antioxidants became more popular, vitamin C was discussed as a tool to combat free radicals in the body. The beauty of naturally abundant vitamins like vitamin C supplements is that they perform many amazing functions within the human body. What many people don’t know (and what they don’t tell you in school) is that using vitamin C supplements as part of your pre-workout nutrition can help you get bigger, stronger and recover faster by preventing damage from free radicals, reducing cortisol and reducing post-workout soreness.
Vitamin C as an Antioxidant
The antioxidant properties of vitamin C are the first step in helping you recover. When exercising, there is an increase in oxidative stress put on the body and muscles, especially in intense exercise. This results in an increase in free radicals, which can damage cells and ultimately lead to some very undesirable conditions within the body. Since vitamin C is a natural antioxidant, it helps mitigate the damage of the free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. The absence of free radicals in the body will provide a more optimal environment for post-workout recovery.
Vitamin C and Cortisol Reduction
An equally significant benefit of supplementing with Vitamin C is reducing cortisol levels. Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone and is elevated during exercise. While cortisol is an essential hormone that performs many important functions in the body, it can also reverse a lot of the work done during intense exercise. High and prolonged levels of cortisol in the body can cause muscle tissue loss, increased abdominal fat, decreased bone density and higher blood pressure.  And in regards to muscle gain in general, cortisol is catabolic, meaning instead of building muscle, cortisol destroys muscle. Studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin C can reduce cortisol post-workout cortisol levels and help clear cortisol from the body faster. So adding cortisol to your nutrition routine can help shift hormones into a more optimal state more quickly and improve your recovery time. Vitamin C has also been shown to reduce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Learn more about the benefits of Vitamin C from these guys.
Timing and Vitamin C Dosage
There is evidence that taking vitamin C multiple times throughout the day can be beneficial as well, but if you are committed to taking it once, make it pre-workout. This will give your body time to process the vitamin and have it ready to go when you need it the most. Dosages in studies range from 200mg to 1000mg, but experienced coaches recommend the higher end of that for maximum benefit, and even more if you smoke or are pregnant.