When it comes to athletic performance, you want to be at your best. Eating a healthy diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins is, of course, one key to achieving fitness goals. Many individuals also choose to take supplements that may have an enhancing effect on their athletic performance. Antioxidants are a popular choice in this category. Popular choices in this category include well-known choices like vitamin C and newer options such as astaxanthin.
Astaxanthin is a potent and natural antioxidant. This carotenoid is responsible for giving animals like shrimp, salmon, krill, and even flamingos a vivid reddish-pink hue. Inside our bodies, it acts as a protective antioxidant that keeps cells from breaking down. This increases oxygen capacity when you exercise.
Our bodies do not produce astaxanthin on their own. Because of this, we need to get it through either food or supplements. However, even the richest food sources of astaxanthin do not have large quantities of this carotenoid. For instance, sockeye salmon has only 4.5 mg of this compound per ounce.
Astaxanthin and Performance
In a study sponsored by Gatorade, competitive cyclists took four milligrams of astaxanthin per day for four weeks to see if using this supplement was associated with a competitive edge. The cyclists taking astaxanthin had times that were five percent faster than those in the control group. Additionally, the cyclists taking astaxanthin showed power outputs that were 15% higher.
Astaxanthin’s Effects on Energy and Metabolism
In studies involving mice, astaxanthin supplements allowed them to swim longer before tiring. Scientists performed a follow-up study on human males to see if the effect crossed species. In a double-blind study, half of the participants took four milligrams of astaxanthin per day over a six-month period while the other half were given a placebo. The astaxanthin group showed an increase in strength and endurance of nearly 55%, while those on the placebo showed only a 20% improvement.
Astaxanthin and Recovery
People who engage in intense activity often know that performance during the game isn’t the only thing that matters. Muscle discomfort and fatigue afterward are also huge factors in how exercise makes you feel.
While astaxanthin showed some improvements in speed and power levels during performance, its results for reducing fatigue and muscle soreness later on were less conclusive. In a study involving male soccer players who took astaxanthin for 90 days, there was no reduction in muscle damage seen. In another study, people who took astaxanthin had the same level of muscle soreness after exercise as those who just took safflower oil.
About Vitamin C
Our bodies need vitamin C for proper health and function. This organic molecule is found in a variety of fruits and vegetables that include citrus fruits, cantaloupe, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, and others. It is destroyed by high heat and long cooking. Our bodies have a low storage capacity for vitamin C and we can’t synthesize our own. Because of this, regular consumption is necessary. To get plenty enough of this vitamin, it’s necessary to either eat plenty of fruits and vegetables every day or to add vitamin C in supplement form.
Vitamin C’s vital roles include forming collagen, helping us absorb iron, healing damaged tissue, and maintaining healthy teeth, cartilage and bone. In addition to these, it functions as an antioxidant and helps protect our bodies against oxidative stress.
Vitamin C and Recovery After Exercise
In a number of studies, participants took anywhere from 400 to 3,000 mg of vitamin C daily before and after intense exercise. In these studies, researchers found that supplementing helped reduce discomfort after exercise and sped up muscle recovery. In other studies where participants just took vitamin C after exercise, however, no benefit was seen.
Vitamin C and Athletic Performance
Interestingly, while vitamin C is beneficial in a range of necessary functions, research indicates that it may inhibit top athletic performance in large doses. In four studies, researchers found that taking large doses of vitamin C reduced exercise-induced blood flow. This, in turn, reduced exercise capacity and performance.
Both of these antioxidants are beneficial for the body in different ways. Vitamin C is a necessary nutrient, so be sure to get some in your diet every day. If you are looking to improve athletic performance, support brain health or see some of the other benefits listed above, adding astaxanthin can help.