Antioxidants and exercise update


As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)


The idea that popping antioxidant supplements doesn’t help — and may even counteract — some of the benefits of exercise and training is something I’ve written about several times, most recently here. So I’m duty-bound to point out the latest study, due in a future issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (abstract available here).

The gist: 12 weeks of strenuous, supervised bicycle training, five days a week. Supplement with vitamins C and E or placebo, double-blinded. A whole bunch of physiological parameters were measured as outcomes (maximal oxygen consumption, maximal power output, workload at lactate threshold, glycogen concentration, citrate synthase, [beta]-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase activity, if you’re interested in the details). The result:

[T]here were no differences between the two groups with regard to any of the physiological and metabolic variables measured… Our results suggest that administration of vitamins C and E to individuals with no prior vitamin deficiencies has no effect on physical adaptations to strenuous endurance training.

Of course, there are many other purported benefits to these vitamins, such as on immune function. But chalk this up as another data point in an ongoing story.

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