The Benefits of Vitamin C for Cyclists

Vitamin C is the go-to vitamin when you feel a cold coming on. We can usually get plenty from diet alone, but there are perhaps a few more reasons to supplement based on some of the studies I've found.

Here are some points to consider:

  • Vitamin C can reduce the bronchial inflammation of exercise-induced asthma. There are a surprisingly large number of cyclists who suffer from asthma - myself included. Now this just may be because we've found the training we do to be effective cyclists also helps keep our asthma in check. I know I've needed my puffer much less frequently since I took up regular bike riding. Perhaps a little extra vitamin C will also help to keep my airways a little more open without extra medication. And wider airways means more oxygen in-flow which can mean improved endurance.
  • Improved oxygen flow can also aid in the additional burning of fat for fuel. The aerobic process of burning fat for energy requires oxygen, and more oxygen means more fat can be burned. This may be the mechanism contributing to the results of another study that showed subjects in a treadmill test with low levels of vitamin C burned 25% less body fat than subjects with adequate vitamin C levels.
  • And here is the point I'm particularly interested in exploring. Now this was a small study with 20 "chubby" adults. Half took 500mg of vitamin C and the other half took a placebo. After 4 weeks, they each performed a treadmill test. Those on the real vitamin C reported a lower Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and a lower heart rate at identical work loads. I've been doing some StrengthEndurance intervals where I ride 5mins at my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) but at a very low cadence, between 50 and 60rpm. These are hard, and on some days my RPE seems higher than others. Perhaps if I supplement with vitamin C, these workouts will at least feel a bit easier.
  • And finally, one last point particularly relevant to us cyclists. Yet another study looked at the effects of vitamin C on muscle recovery. Exercising men supplementing with vitamin C had greater muscle recovery in the first 24 hours after exercise than those who took either a vitamin E supplement or a placebo. The faster we can recover from our hard workouts, the quicker we can get back to another hard workout session and train ourselves to be even faster cyclists. If vitamin C can help me recover faster, I'm all for it. And especially as a master-aged cyclists (I'm 46), when recovery starts to take longer than when we were younger, then maybe this will help me keep up with all those young guys in my stage racing.

So how much vitamin C should we try taking? The convenient thing about vitamin C is that you really can't take too much and overdose yourself. It's one of the water soluble vitamins meaning anything your body can't immediately absorb will simply get pissed away - putting it bluntly. In the studies mentioned above, the supplements ranged from 400mg to 1500mg daily. The Recommended Dietary Allowances for men are 90mg/day and for women 75mg/day, with yet further data suggesting 200mg/day to be ideal for chronic disease prevention.

There are plenty of good, natural dietary sources of vitamin C that I'm sure you're already aware of like:

  • citrus fruits
  • kiwi
  • strawberries
  • cantaloupe
  • (hey, those are all awesome, sweet, tasty treats!)
  • potatoes (with the skin - the skin has the highest concentration of vitamin C)
  • broccoli
  • brussels sprouts
  • bell peppers

So you can see, this is a fairly well rounded list of typical fruits and vegetables. Keep at least 50% of your plate filled with these, and you'll be pretty much on the mark for the lower levels needed in the studies.

But to add a bit of insurance, and to get to the higher levels that were studied, I'll be supplementing with 1000mg/day of a time-released vitamin C supplement. The time release variety will help maximize absorption with minimal loss in my urine. I think this will be one of the staple supplements I'll be taking. I love getting most of my nutrients from fresh, natural sources, but given the above mentioned studies, a little extra supplementation may be quite "fruitful".

To read more, and to find the links to the studies mentioned, please check out this article:

P.S. Please remember to check out my National Regifting Day plans by clicking HERE.