You probably take vitamin C to boost your immune system. But did you know that vitamin C has many other benefits – including decreasing fatigue?
Studies show that vitamin C has all sorts of benefits including:
- decreasing fatigue,
- positively influencing heart rate,
- making moderate exercise feel easier,
- assisting with weight loss.
What is vitamin C?
Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is an essential nutrient, which means our body requires it to properly function. Among many its uses is repairing damaged tissue and helping your immune system function properly.
In cell reactions, vitamin C donates its electrons. This is what classifies it as an antioxidant. Our bodies can only store a small amount of vitamin C, so supplementing vitamin C regularly is important.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a daily intake of 45mg, and a weekly intake of 300mg. Below are the five best natural sources of vitamin C: (1)
- Kale (120mg/100g)
- Kiwi (90mg/100g)
- Strawberry (60mg/100g)
- Oranges/Lemons (53mg/100g)
- Pineapple (50mg/100g)
It’s very difficult to get your Vitamin C through meat products. Some organ meats, like chicken liver, contain adequate amounts, however once the meat is cooked the level is much lower. That’s why I recommend you get your vitamin C through fruits and vegetables.
Unfortunately cooking and storing fruits and vegetables quickly decreases the quantity of available vitamin C. To ensure you’re getting enough vitamin C in your diet, consume 1-2 servings of raw fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.
For many people it can be quite difficult to eat fresh fruits and vegetables year round, especially during the winter months. If this is the case it’s a good idea to take a vitamin C supplement of 500mg-1000mg a day.
Little known fact – Vitamin C was the very first vitamin to be manufactured in a lab! (2)
Vitamin C and fatigue
To track the affect of vitamin C on fatigue, a study was performed on a small group of overweight adults. The entire group was put on a calorie restricted diet and given a moderate exercise plan to follow – walking on a treadmill for 60 minutes a day.
The participants were then divided into two groups:
- Group one received 500mg of vitamin C supplementation
- Group two did not receive any vitamin C supplementation.
The study lasted for a total of four weeks.
Throughout the study, participants were asked to rate their fatigue levels. Examiners also tracked oxygen consumption, heart rate, and how hard the participants felt their workout was (perceived exertion). The results of the study were fascinating:
- Both groups lost 4kg (about 9lbs);
- A difference in heart rates between the two groups was very noticeable:
- The heart rate of those that supplemented vitamin C was decreased by 11 bpm
- The heart rate of the placebo group decreased 3 bpm;
- Fatigue was much lower in the group that was taking vitamin C;
- The group taking vitamin C rated their exercise as easier than the how the placebo group rated theirs.
This study was done with a very small sample size of twenty participants so we can’t guarantee that vitamin C decreases fatigue. However, the results look promising.
Additionally, vitamin C has an excellent safety record. It’s a safe, cost-effective way to potentially increase your energy. I recommend it as a first-line therapy in the treatment of fatigue.
Vitamin C: fat burner
A fatty acid called carnitine is essential for burning fat during exercise. Vitamin C is required for the production of carnitine. If you have low levels of vitamin C, it follows that you’re likely to have low levels of carnitine. When you have low levels of carnitine, your body will struggle to burn fat during exercise.
Fat can be a great source of energy – especially for those on a ketogenic or low carbohydrate diet who primarily burn fat for fuel instead of sugar. When your vitamin C levels are low (and as a consequence, so is your carnitine) you will feel more fatigued. This will be especially noticeable during exercise when your body is trying to use body fat for its energy source. (4)
If you find that you’re struggling to lose body fat with your exercise program, try eating an additional serving of fruits and vegetables each day. Or, opt for a vitamin C supplement of 500-1000mg.
Vitamin C and cortisol
In a previous post, I outlined the best supplements for adrenal fatigue, one of which is Vitamin C.
This is because one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C is located in your adrenal glands. (5) Your adrenal glands use vitamin C to produce cortisol. When your body is exposed to a stress (this could be from blood sugar imbalances, sleep irregularities, hidden sources of inflammation, or general life-related stressors), your adrenal glands release cortisol to help your body cope with the stress.
In fact, vitamin C is so important for cortisol production (and therefore stress management) that when ultra marathoners supplemented vitamin C following a race it helped to lower inflammation and improved the circulation of cortisol. (6)
If vitamin C helps reduce the effects of stress in such an intense situation, it is safe to assume that it will also be of benefit in your own life – ultra marathoner or not!
Adrenal fatigue defense
If you’ve been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue (also known as hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis dysfunction or HPA-D) or you suspect that you have it, increasing your vitamin C intake should be one of your first steps. I always recommend that you start by adding more whole foods that contain vitamin C before reaching for supplements. Then, if the whole foods aren’t improving your fatigue levels, taking 500-1000mg per day is the perfect place to start.
Fortunately, vitamin C is water soluble. Therefore, if you take too much of it, your body will not accumulate the vitamin in toxic amounts. Instead, you’ll likely experience diarrhea, nausea, heartburn, and/or stomach cramps. This usually happens when you take around 2000mg/day.
Ok, now you know how vitamin C can improve your fatigue and energy – click here to learn more about which foods increase your energy!