Total Shape is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission. Learn more.

Should I Take Vitamin C Before or After a Workout?
What You Should Know

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: June 14, 2021

We are well aware of the importance of a daily source of vitamin C in our diet. Vitamin C has always been highly recommended and often tagged as an accessible daily immunity booster.

But there is now a bit of a buzz that is advocating the use of vitamin C as part of a pre-workout. So how much vitamin C does your body need, when should you take it, and what does it do?

Read on to find out.

Should I Take Vitamin C Before Working Out?

A hand holding a single pill

Vitamin C can help your overall health and is, therefore, a recommended daily supplement.

However, no clear evidence or study currently flags it for effective pre-workout antioxidant supplementation.

A lot of studies link vitamin C supplementation with the immune system, and people who don't naturally get it through their diet should all be taking vitamin C. [1]

One study showed that taking vitamin C and E as a pre-workout hampered the athlete's muscle building. [2]

I looked into this further and discussed how vitamin C affects specific aspects of your workout in the next section.

Does Vitamin C Support Your Workout?

Orange slices and an orange pills on glass

Muscle Gain

Vitamin C supplementation does not directly help with muscle gain.

However, if taken as part of a pre-workout mix of vitamin C and E and antioxidant supplementation, in general, it works to improve recovery time.

It means that in conjunction with other ingredients, you may be able to work out harder and return quicker, which is integral to increasing muscle mass.

Endurance

Vitamin C does not directly help with endurance.

However, when used in a pre-workout, vitamin C may work with other ingredients to improve your overall health, affecting your energy levels.

A good pre-workout should provide energy and increase anaerobic power, but that's not down to the included vitamin C and E.

Immunity

Yes, many studies show that vitamin C may have a powerful effect in helping to boost your immunity and immune system.

By working with other ingredients in a pre-workout that aim to speed up recovery time, a vitamin C pre-workout aims to ensure you never skip a day at the gym due to muscle soreness or sickness.

Recovery

Some studies show that vitamin C may have a modest effect on recovery times after exercise. [3] However, the recent studies are far from exhaustive.

The best we can currently state is that vitamin C may help with post-exercise recovery. It isn't the most effective supplement for this job, and it isn't assured.

What Pre-Workout Ingredients Work Well With Vitamin C?

Close up image of an orange slice and different pills

Are you looking at taking vitamin C as part of your pre-workout supplement or leading into your training routine?

Then you'll want to know which ingredients are in those pre-workouts.

This list of which ingredients work well with vitamin C and aid with exercise-induced recovery time and muscle training.

We will also mention those that are ineffective or ones that you should avoid altogether.

Citrulline Malate

Citrulline Malate is in most pre-workouts that promote better exercise and muscle training.

Its primary claim to fame is its link to cardiovascular health and the body's ability to better supply the muscle with oxygen during exercise or training.

L-citrulline is a much-studied supplement [4], and citrulline malate is the most common form of acquiring this amazing amino acid.

Nitric Oxide

A visual representation of blood flow

Nitric Oxide (NO) and L-citrulline are closely linked, and you'll find that most pre-workouts give you both.

Nitric Oxide increases blood flow and decreases blood pressure. It's relatively essential to a healthy exercise or muscle training routine.

NO protein supplementation can have a substantial improvement on your body and training.

Studies have shown this time and time again. [5]

Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic acid is just another way to say vitamin C; they are the same.

As well as the many benefits of Ascorbic Acid listed above also benefit collagen production, the proper absorption of iron, and the ongoing health of cartilage and bone.

Therefore, there is no reason not to ensure you get a healthy dose of ascorbic acid every day in either supplementation or whole food form.

Beta-Alanine

Close up white pill image

Beta-Alanine is another well-researched and proven workout protein supplement that increases exercise capacity and helps the body speed up muscle growth.

Like ascorbic acid, it supposedly also helps with muscle recovery.

Still, this effect is less observed in the research currently available.

Nevertheless, it's something you'll want for a decent training session and should include in any proper workout aid.

Arginine

In the past, arginine was not presented in the studies and research that other supplements enjoyed. That's no longer true.

We now have some controlled studies with a placebo group that show that arginine, when taken 60-90 minutes before training, is beneficial to aerobic and anaerobic performance.

The protein supplement's benefit lies in acting as an aid to nitric oxide and helping the body produce and transmit NO around the body. [6]

Collagen

Collagen pills scattered

Collagen is essential in keeping the skin's elasticity and fighting off cellulite.

So if you exercise to keep yourself looking good, supplements containing collagen are vital.

Additionally, as we age, collagen production decreases, and our skin becomes drier with visible wrinkles.

So it's not just enough to feel young, you might as well look it too, and collagen supplements are the way to go.

Creatine Monohydrate

At this point, the studies have overwhelmingly shown that creatine used before and after a heavy exercise session is the king of supplements in terms of performance enhancement and gains. [7]

Some even consider it to be as important as protein.

While I'm not looking to lower my protein intake, I'm not looking to drop creatine either.

Creatine is a better user in high-intensity exercise. Participants in the studies who performed more prolonged exercise found its effect diminished.

Vitamin D

White pills top view

Vitamin D is so much more than a lead into a crass and childish joke, and even those are sometimes my favorite kind.

Vitamin D is also one of my favorite vitamins.

It helps the body maintain calcium and phosphate levels, which look after teeth, bone, and muscle health.

It's a common ingredient in BCAA formulas, and while you can get it from just basking in the sun, it's a smart supplement to make sure you have enough of it.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is as common in supplements as D but less funny by nature.

It works as an antioxidant that helps the body with critically important stuff like helping to decrease the risk of heart disease and even helping to prevent some forms of cancer. [8]

Vitamin E also helps to keep blood vessels dilated and prevents blood clots.

This particular aspect of improving cardiovascular delivery is why it's an excellent addition to your chosen exercise supplement.

Caffeine

Top view of coffee beans

Caffeine is often touted as a weight-loss miracle pill, but when combined with exercise, it genuinely can be.

In addition to improving your energy levels and making it easier for you to push just a little bit harder, it's also a solid metabolic boost.

It means you can burn fat faster during exercise.

However, the diuretic nature of caffeine can get rid of any vitamin C before your body has had a chance to process it properly.

Thus you may want to keep the two separated.

Stevia Leaf Extract

Stevia Leaf has its fans, and it has its detractors. It is an alternative to sugar.

Whether all the additional health benefit claims are valid or not, it certainly isn't a direct exercise aid by itself. Instead, the ingredient will likely feature as a sweetener to improve the taste.

FAQs

How Much Vitamin C Does An Athlete Need?

The recommended amount of around 100mg a day should be more than sufficient.

The only reason to exceed this dose will be to feel the onset of a cold or start feeling sick. A higher amount of vitamin C has not proven to be more effective at recovery from post-exercise-induced muscle soreness.

Can You Have Too Much Vitamin C?

Yes, you can have too much vitamin C, as mentioned in the study referenced earlier [2].

Exceeding the recommended daily amount and trying to hit anywhere from 500mg to 2000mg a day can be harmful.

Some athletes may recommend these higher numbers, but it will end up hurting the fitness goals you're trying to achieve, and there is no science to back it up.

When Is The Best Time To Take Vitamin C?

It's much better to take vitamin C in the morning or as part of a pre-workout rather than post-workout.

Ascorbic acid (the main component of vitamin C) is water-soluble, so our bodies do not produce or store it.

The manufacturer recommends having it first to top up your body's supply and then have another before your workout or with your lunch.

Should I Take A Vitamin C Supplement Or Eat Fruit?

It’s always best to get your nutrition from whole food sources wherever possible.

Ascorbic acid is found in lots of fruit and vegetables and can quickly serve as snacks throughout the day.

Oranges are an obvious choice, but other citrus fruits, berries, and even broccoli and Brussel sprouts are equally rich in ascorbic acid.

Does Vitamin C Supplementation Help With Athletic Performance?

Vitamin C is essential for a healthy body, and a healthy body is vital for efficient exercise.

There is very little evidence that taking increased doses will directly improve your workout.

However, getting the recommended 100mg a day from whole food sources should be a no-brainer.

Have we missed something that you think makes a strong argument for vitamin C's inclusion in workout supplements? Do you break up your gym sessions with vitamin C snack breaks? Let us know in the comments below.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707683/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4270502/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11915781/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6073798/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22260513/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7282262/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407788/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6074169/

About the author

You may also like

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *