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Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Posted by George Parker on
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that destroy free radicals helping runners reduce inflammation and boost immunity.

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid (not citric acid), is a water soluble vitamin found in many common fruits and vegetables including citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits), tomatoes, and potatoes. Unlike most animals, humans cannot synthesize Vitamin C so must consume through the diet.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals. Free radicals are molecules with an unpaired electron. Free radicals are inherently unstable molecules that will attack other molecules and cells to reclaim an electron and reach a more stable configuration. Free radicals are naturally produced in the body from metabolic activity, such as exercise and running. Left unchecked, free radicals will attack muscles, proteins, fats and cells leading to cellular damage and muscle inflammation.

Vitamin C’s primarily benefit in the body is the neutralization of free radicals.

In water (Vitamin C is water soluble), the acidic “OH” functional group can donate a hydrogen atom resulting in a negative overall charge on Vitamin C. In the presence of a free radical (denoted by R*), Vitamin C can donate an electron to neutralize the free radical. In the process, Vitamin C now becomes a free radical. However, because of the ring structure, Vitamin C can sufficiently spread this lone electron across the molecule, creating a significantly less reactive (and safer) molecule in the body. The reaction is net favorable because the resulting Vitamin C free radical is significantly more stable / less energy than the beginning ascorbic acid molecule.

Vitamin C is an important vitamin for runners for several reasons:

  • Neutralize Free Radicals - Runners produce, on average, 10-20x more free radicals than the average adult because of their level of metabolic activity. Therefore, runners need more antioxidants to sufficiently help neutralize these free radicals. 
  • Reduce Inflammation – Left unchecked, free radicals will attack muscles and cells, resulting in general inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation will limit runners’ ability to recover and affect general health over time. 
  • Strength Immunity – Vitamin C has been a known immunity enhancer in the general population for some time. It’s immune boosting property is related to Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties. Having a strong immune system is important for runners to maintain consistent training over time, which is necessary to build fitness. And, running high intensity and high mileage will naturally weaken the immune system. Any ability to bolster the immune system during times of depressed immunity are helpful for overall health. 

Best wishes chasing your running goals!

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