Antioxidants and Exercise…more reasons to avoid

Posted: May 22, 2014 in Nutrition, Training
Tags: , , ,

As I’ve discussed previously, taking antioxidants before, during, or after exercise is not a smart move (with few exceptions). Yet most popular peri-workout supplements designed to be taken at these times continue to include significant doses of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, NAC, and other conditionally detrimental antioxidants. For a more in depth review of why this is a bad idea, see my article here.

Published this week in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, the researchers of this study found antioxidants to have no effect on facilitating muscle recovery, when taken for a full six weeks before initiation of training. At best, antioxidants will have no effect, but the more likely story is that antioxidants will be detrimental to protein synthesis, recovery, performance, and long term health when consumed around training sessions.

This shouldn’t interpreted as a reason to avoid consuming antioxidants, as many of them have numerous general health benefits and should be included in most people’s supplementation protocol. Current research is pointing to the idea that no matter when you take them, they’re probably not going to aid recovery from training, and if you take them directly around workout sessions, you will probably experience a detrimental effect. As noted in the linked article above, the body has an elegant system of controlling exercise induced ROS endogenously, so just let your body do it’s thing.


Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Nov 11. [Epub ahead of print]

Oxidative stress, inflammation and recovery of muscle function after damaging exercise: effect of 6-week mixed antioxidant supplementation.

There is no consensus regarding the effects of mixed antioxidant vitamin C and/or vitamin E supplementation on oxidative stress responses to exercise and restoration of muscle function. Thirty-eight men were randomly assigned to receive either placebo group (n = 18) or mixed antioxidant (primarily vitamin C & E) supplements (n = 20) in a double-blind manner. After 6 weeks, participants performed 90 min of intermittent shuttle-running. Peak isometric torque of the knee flexors/extensors and range of motion at this joint were determined before and after exercise, with recovery of these variables tracked for up to 168 h post-exercise. Antioxidant supplementation elevated pre-exercise plasma vitamin C (93 ± 8 μmol l(-1)) and vitamin E (11 ± 3 μmol l(-1)) concentrations relative to baseline (P < 0.001) and the placebo group (P ≤ 0.02). Exercise reduced peak isometric torque (i.e. 9-19% relative to baseline; P ≤ 0.001), which persisted for the first 48 h of recovery with no difference between treatment groups. In contrast, changes in the urine concentration of F(2)-isoprostanes responded differently to each treatment (P = 0.04), with a tendency for higher concentrations after 48 h of recovery in the supplemented group (6.2 ± 6.1 vs. 3.7 ± 3.4 ng ml(-1)). Vitamin C & E supplementation also affected serum cortisol concentrations, with an attenuated increase from baseline to the peak values reached after 1 h of recovery compared with the placebo group (P = 0.02) and serum interleukin-6 concentrations were higher after 1 h of recovery in the antioxidant group (11.3 ± 3.4 pg ml(-1)) than the placebo group (6.2 ± 3.8 pg ml(-1); P = 0.05). Combined vitamin C & E supplementation neither reduced markers of oxidative stress or inflammation nor did it facilitate recovery of muscle function after exercise-induced muscle damage.

PMID: 21069377

  1. […] Antioxidants &#1072nd Exercise…more reasons t&#959 avoid « Body &#959f Evidence b&#1091 … […]

  2. John Zehr says:

    there is one inexpensive, commercially-available, clinically-proven Nrf2 activator, that virtually eliminates free radicals in the body. It’s not an anti-oxidant, per se. What it does is stimulate the body’s capacity to make SOD , catalayse, and glutathione.

    There’s a 9-minute ABC Primetime video at that talks about it.

    It has been shown to reduce oxidative stress by 40%-70% and increases glutathione production by 300% in a half-dozen independent, peer-reviewed studies at Vanderbilt, LSU, the University of Ohio, the University of Colorado, and others.

    Results of the studies can be found at under the keyword “Protandim”.

    John Zehr

  3. […] Antioxidants and Exercise…more reasons to avoid « Body of Evidence … […]

  4. […] Antioxidants as well as Exercise…more reasons to equivocate « Body of Evidence … […]

  5. […] Antioxidants as well as Exercise…more reasons to equivocate « Body of Evidence … […]

  6. Fitport says:

    This is interesting John, I glanced at a few of the studies and plan to spend some time reading the full texts. Thanks for the contribution.

    • John Zehr says:

      To the best of my knowledge, it’s a unique product.

      One molecule of all “external” antioxidants (Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Pycnogenol, etc.) neutralizes one free radical, and then it’s antioxidant potential is exhausted. Each molecule of the enzymes this product causes your body to produce neutralizes one MILLION free radicals per SECOND without being used up. (You’ll recall from high school chemistry that an enzyme participates in a chemical reaction without being used up in the process.)

      I believe the product is a very good thing for anyone wanting faster recovery and fewer oxidative stress-related maladies.

  7. James says:

    Be aware that the individual posting the link to “Protandim” is a distributor for “Lifevantage”, a fact he did not disclose. “Lifevantage” is a “Multi-Level Marketing” organization – the overwhelming majority of these companies are not reputable and try to recruit people into the organization with promises of achieving wealth / “financial independence”. But in fact they’re making exaggerated claims for dubious products, while claiming to be different than other less reputable MLM organizations. They have a strident, cult-like belief in their MLM and their questionable products, & are aggressive in promoting them. Don’t believe any of the hype, & steer clear.

    • John Zehr says:

      Whoa, dude. Please notice I didn’t try to sell anything. Yep. I’m a distributor/user. Mea culpa. You seem to have a bias or two.

      “the overwhelming majority of these companies are not reputable and try to recruit people into the organization with promises of achieving wealth / “financial independence”.

      Really? Where’s your evidence for that? Show me some fact, not just opinion.

      “They have a strident, cult-like belief in their MLM and their questionable products, & are aggressive in promoting them.”

      Really? Show me where I’ve been strident or demonstrated a cult-like belief.

      Perhaps the problem you have with what I said comes from inside YOU, not from ME.


  8. Ralp Bartels says:

    Pill Peddler!

  9. John Zehr says:

    C’mon, Ralph. Do you ever shop at a health-food store? They’re pill-peddlers.

    You should evaluate what I’ve said based on your own open-minded and deliberate research. Casting aspersion isn’t very adult-like behavior.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Protandim is a joke

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