Should You Supplement? Vitamin C, the Key to Open Many Doors

Now that you have read the first and second installments of Should You Supplement? and restored your Omega-3 levels within your healthy nutritional plan; it’s time to look into another common supplement which may help you achieve optimal health.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) is an essential nutrient that we humans cannot manufacture so it must be obtained through the consumption of various fruits and vegetables.  Some of the best food sources for vitamin C include;

  • Strawberries
  • Cantaloupes
  • Peppers
  • Kiwis
  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Grapefruits

Vitamin C is one of many antioxidants that can protect against damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals, as well as toxic chemicals and pollutants like cigarette smoke.  Free radicals can build up and contribute to the development of health problems.  I’m sure most people could give one or two examples of the symptoms and diseases that vitamin C helps to treat, and potentially prevent.  Some are proven, and especially where prevention is concerned, many still need more proof through scientific studies to tout the useful aide of this vitamin.  Some of the symptoms and diseases treated and possibly prevented with vitamin C include:

  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Cancer
  • Stress
  • Stroke
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Skin aging

Vitamin C may also have many positive benefits for proper body function including:

  • Improve macular degeneration
  • Lowering of cholesterol
  • Formation of collagen
  • Reduction of inflammation and joint soreness
  • Absorption of iron
  • Maintenance of proper immune system function
  • Maintenance of healthy cartilage, bones, and teeth
  • Reduction of asthma
  • Reduction of cortisol levels
  • Wound healing

There is no doubt that vitamin C is necessary for a healthy lifestyle but there are the questions of what happens if I get too little, what happens if I take too much, how much should I take and how often?  These questions do not have easy answers because it really depends on the person and the current situation they are in.  Through the research I have done I will give you my general findings.

According to Elson M. Haas M.D. ; “For most purposes, vitamin C in many forms of use is nontoxic.”  Both he and Dr. Eric Serrano agree that vitamin C is not stored in the body with excess amounts being excreted through the urine.  Overdose is not much of a factor and not serious for most adults consuming under 5-10 grams/day.  The most common side effect of too much consumption is diarrhea.

Hass states that, “Many medical problems have been found to be associated with low blood levels of vitamin C. These problems include various infections, colds, depression, high blood pressure, arthritis, vascular fragility, allergies, ulcers, and cholesterol gallstones.”  Seems like if you had to choose between the two, it may be better to have too much than two little, however the optimal amount is ideal, so what is that optimal amount?

The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance – By The Food And Drug Administration) recommends 60 milligrams per day for adults to maintain normal body functions but is this recommendation too small?  As stated earlier in the article, vitamin C is a factor in so many body functions it seems that the amount needed should be dependent on other factors in our daily lives.  Hass explains that vitamin C needs are increased with all kinds of stress (physical, emotional, and environmental).  It is important to note that smoking decreases vitamin C levels along with birth control pills, estrogen for menopause, cortisone use, and aspirin.

Both Dr. Hass and Serrano recommend doses higher than the suggested RDA daily dosage.  Suggestion for vitamin C use is about 2–10 grams per day for an active and healthy person.  Hass explains his reason for suggesting higher doses depend on the needs of the individual, “Requirements for vitamin C vary and may be higher according to state of health, age (needs increase with years), weight, activity and energy levels, and general metabolism. Stress, illness, and injuries further increase the requirements for ascorbic acid.”

Vitamin C is easily absorbed by the body with an average absorption rate of approximately 90% and it is best absorbed when doses are spaced out throughout the day.  According to an article by Dr. Serrano, “Maximal absorption is attained by the ingestion of several spaced dosages of 500 mg to 2 grams throughout the day.” Vitamin C’s half-life is 3 to 4 hours. This means you need to take vitamin C every 4 to 6 hours to keep your levels elevated.”

Serrano recommends dividing doses three times daily.  He claims that the most important times to take vitamin C are one hour prior to training and two hours after your workout is completed, “By ingesting 2 to 4 grams at these times the Cortisol response will be minimized and the antioxidant effect of vitamin C maximized.”

Great Ways to Add Vitamin C to your Diet

As we have seen, vitamin C is a very important vitamin for optimal health and supplementing with doses higher than the RDA suggested levels may be beneficial for an active individual looking to build a strong body and prevent or even combat certain illnesses and diseases.  The Vitamin C Foundation has a list of the amount of milligrams of vitamin C found in popular foods.  Peppers have the highest amount of vitamin C content at just less than 2 grams and oranges have a measly 0.059 grams.  The point being that supplementation of vitamin C may be necessary to maintain optimum levels.  Serrano suggests a time released vitamin C pill and to never buy chewable tablets because the acid can destroy tooth enamel.

Personally I do supplement with vitamin C and consume about 4-8 grams spaced out over the day.  I take about 2-4 grams in the morning and then about 1 gram dosages spaced throughout the day.  If I feel like I’m getting sick I increase the dosages.  I get my vitamin C supplements from Wholesale Nutrition.

Along with a balanced and healthy diet, supplementing a little vitamin C a few times a day may be just what we need to build the best bodies we can inside and out.