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Vitamin C: Effects of Exercise and Requirements with Training

Jonathan M. Peake

Ascorbic acid or vitamin C is involved in a number of biochemical pathways that are important to exercise metabolism and the health of exercising individuals. This review reports the results of studies investigating the requirement for vitamin C with exercise on the basis of dietary vitamin C intakes, the response to supplementation and alterations in plasma, serum, and leukocyte ascorbic acid concentration following both acute exercise and regular training. The possible physiological significance of changes in ascorbic acid with exercise is also addressed. Exercise generally causes a transient increase in circulating ascorbic acid in the hours following exercise, but a decline below pre-exercise levels occurs in the days after prolonged exercise. These changes could be associated with increased exercise-induced oxidative stress. On the basis of alterations in the concentration of ascorbic acid within the blood, it remains unclear if regular exercise increases the metabolism of vitamin C. However, the similar dietary intakes and responses to supplementation between athletes and nonathletes suggest that regular exercise does not increase the requirement for vitamin C in athletes. Two novel hypotheses are put forward to explain recent findings of attenuated levels of cortisol postexercise following supplementation with high doses of vitamin C.

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The Prevalence of Vitamin Supplementation in Ultraendurance Triathletes

Wade L. Knez and Jonathan M. Peake

Ultraendurance exercise training places large energy demands on athletes and causes a high turnover of vitamins through sweat losses, metabolism, and the musculoskeletal repair process. Ultraendurance athletes may not consume sufficient quantities or quality of food in their diet to meet these needs. Consequently, they may use oral vitamin and mineral supplements to maintain their health and performance. We assessed the vitamin and mineral intake of ultraendurance athletes in their regular diet, in addition to oral vitamin and mineral supplements. Thirty-seven ultraendurance triathletes (24 men and 13 women) completed a 7-day nutrition diary including a questionnaire to determine nutrition adequacy and supplement intake. Compared with dietary reference intakes for the general population, both male and female triathletes met or exceeded all except for vitamin D. In addition, female athletes consumed slightly less than the recommended daily intake for folate and potassium; however, the difference was trivial. Over 60% of the athletes reported using vitamin supplements, of which vitamin C (97.5%), vitamin E (78.3%), and multivitamins (52.2%) were the most commonly used supplements. Almost half (47.8%) the athletes who used supplements did so to prevent or reduce cold symptoms. Only 1 athlete used supplements on formal medical advice. Vitamin C and E supplementation was common in ultraendurance triathletes, despite no evidence of dietary deficiency in these 2 vitamins.