Vitamin C is a well-known antioxidant. As a result, many lifters and athletes might feel inclined to assume that high-dose vitamin C supplementation will reduce oxidative stress and inflammation caused by exercise, thereby improving their recovery and performance in subsequent bouts of exercise.
A recent meta-analysis put this theory to the test by evaluating all the literature assessing the effects of vitamin C supplementation on lipid peroxidation (oxidative stress), interleukin 6 (IL-6; inflammation), creatine kinase (muscle damage), C-reactive protein (CRP; inflammation), cortisol, soreness, and strength recovery.
While vitamin C did cause a small reduction in lipid peroxidation and IL-6, the other outcomes were not significantly impacted. So, the modest reductions in markers of oxidative stress and inflammation did not effectively translate to reduced soreness or faster strength recovery. It should also be noted that there is some weak and inconsistent evidence suggesting that high-dose vitamin C supplementation may partially attenuate strength and muscle gains in response to resistance training.
The bottom line: While vitamin C is certainly an important component of a healthy diet, it’s hard to justify high-dose supplementation for performance or recovery purposes.
Read more about this: For more information about the effects of antioxidants on blood flow, performance, and training adaptations, be sure to check out our recent article: Antioxidants for Lifters: A Review of the Evidence.