Vitamin E Sport Nutrition

Vitamin E in sports performance for athletic excellence

Optimizing athletic performance goes beyond consuming the right amounts of macronutrients but involves carefully balancing micronutrients as well, including vitamins.

One of the essential side effects caused by moderate to high-intensity and short-duration physical activities is the increase of oxidative stress in skeletal muscle. Therefore, antioxidant supplements are recommended in stressful situations to prevent free radical damage.

Vitamin E, also known as Alpha-Tocopherol, is recognized for its potent antioxidant properties, protecting cells from oxidative stress, supporting immune and cardiovascular health, and improving muscle regeneration.

This article examines the crucial role of vitamin E in sports performance and sports nutrition, including guidelines for recommended intake and the conditions under which supplementation might be needed.

Why vitamin E is crucial for better sports performances

During physical activities, especially those of high intensity and short duration, the body’s metabolic rate increases, leading to higher production of free radicals, such as reactive oxygen species (ROS). These unstable molecules can damage cells, proteins, and DNA, contributing to muscle fatigue, inflammation, and impaired recovery.

While ROS increase is easily controlled by antioxidant defense systems during low to moderate-intensity and long-term exercises, during stressful situations or high-intensity and short-duration workouts the body’s antioxidant capacity declines. This can lead to chronic oxidative stress and free-radical damage in various body tissues besides the skeletal muscles [1].

The functions of vitamin E in sports nutrition

To maintain the body’s endogenous defense against oxidative stress, it is generally recommended to have a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin E, a fat-soluble nutrient essential for protecting the body against free radical damage.

One of the primary functions of vitamin E is to neutralize free radicals, thus protecting cells from damage. By mitigating oxidative damage, vitamin E helps maintain muscle integrity and reduces the likelihood of exercise-induced muscle soreness and injury.

These findings were confirmed by a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials which revealed that dietary vitamin E supplementation had a protective effect on muscle damage, as indicated by lower levels of muscle damage markers, like creatine kinase (CK) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) [2]. This protective effect allows athletes to maintain higher performance levels, endure longer periods, and recover more quickly.

Protection of the cardiovascular system with vitamin E

The endothelial cells lining blood vessels are particularly vulnerable to oxidative damage, impairing their function and reducing nitric oxide production necessary for vasodilation. This endothelial dysfunction can result in decreased blood flow, promoting inflammation and atherosclerosis, which negatively impact the cardiovascular system. Maintaining cardiovascular health is essential for athletes as it ensures optimal performance and endurance. Healthy blood vessels facilitate efficient blood flow, which is crucial for delivering oxygen and nutrients to muscles during exercise. Several studies have demonstrated the power of vitamin E in protecting the cardiovascular system by reducing and preventing oxidative damage to endothelial cells [3,4].

In particular, a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that vitamin E supplementation significantly improved endothelial function in individuals with lower baseline levels of the vitamin. This improvement is crucial for athletes as it enhances the ability of blood vessels to dilate, improving blood flow and nutrient delivery during exercise. The Women’s Health Study, which followed nearly 40,000 women over ten years, demonstrated that natural vitamin E supplementation significantly reduced cardiovascular deaths, especially in older women, underscoring its importance in promoting cardiovascular health and reducing mortality from cardiovascular diseases [5].

Recommended doses and supplementation guidelines of vitamin E to improve sports performance

For athletes, who may have higher oxidative stress levels, dietary sources such as nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and green leafy vegetables are generally sufficient to meet their needs. However, supplementation might be considered if dietary intake is inadequate or if the athlete’s training regimen significantly increases their oxidative stress levels.

Studies suggest that a lower dosage of vitamin E supplementation, particularly below 500 IU, can better reduce exercise-induced muscle damage compared to a higher dosage, without interfering with the adaptive benefits of training [2].​

Dosages typically range from 100 to 400 IU per day, depending on individual needs and professional recommendations. It is important to note that the upper intake level for vitamin E is set at 1,000 mg per day for adults, a threshold beyond which adverse effects, such as increased bleeding risk, might occur. It is also worth considering the timing of supplementation. Some studies suggest that taking vitamin E post-exercise can be more effective in reducing oxidative damage and supporting recovery [7].

Advantages of the natural form of vitamin E

However, the overall strategy should prioritize obtaining vitamin E from natural food sources whenever possible. The natural form of vitamin E, specifically D-Alpha-Tocopherol, is crucial in sports supplements, like enriched/fortified foods and nutraceutical products, due to its superior bioavailability and efficacy, which directly impacts athletic performance. Natural vitamin E is more effectively absorbed and utilized by the body compared to its synthetic counterpart, DL-Alpha-Tocopherol. This higher bioavailability means that athletes can achieve optimal antioxidant protection more efficiently, with lower vitamin E dosage.

It may interest you: Unlocking the superiority of natural vitamin E

Nutrabiol E® for sports supplements

BTSA’s Nutrabiol E® exemplifies the best alternative to synthetic vitamin E for enriching or fortifying foods products and nutritional products. It is designed to enhance the efficacy of vitamin E in any kind of supplement, including sports supplements. It is available in various concentrations, ranging from 1000 to 1300 International Units (IU), and in ester forms such as D-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate for greater stability or D-Alpha-Tocopheryl Hydrogen Succinate for powder applications.

Thus, Nutrabiol® E is an outstanding option for maximizing the health benefits and performance outcomes associated with vitamin E supplementation.

 

References

  1. Taherkhani, S.; Valaei, K.; Arazi, H.; Suzuki, K. An Overview of Physical Exercise and Antioxidant Supplementation Influences on Skeletal Muscle Oxidative Stress. Antioxidants 2021, 10, 1528, doi:10.3390/antiox10101528.
  2. Kim, M.; Eo, H.; Lim, J.G.; Lim, H.; Lim, Y. Can Low-Dose Dietary Vitamin E Supplementation Reduce Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage and Oxidative Stress? A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients 2022, 14, 1599, doi:10.3390/nu14081599.
  3. Garg, A.; Lee, J.C.-Y. Vitamin E: Where Are We Now in Vascular Diseases? Life 2022, 12, 310, doi:10.3390/life12020310.
  4. Ziegler, M.; Wallert, M.; Lorkowski, S.; Peter, K. Cardiovascular and Metabolic Protection by Vitamin E: A Matter of Treatment Strategy? Antioxidants 2020, 9, 935, doi:10.3390/antiox9100935.
  5. Chitra, K.C.; Rao, K.R.; Mathur, P.P. Effect of Bisphenol A and Co-Administration of Bisphenol A and Vitamin C on Epididymis of Adult Rats: A Histological and Biochemical Study. Asian J Androl 2003, 5, 203–208.
  6. O’Connor, E.; Mündel, T.; Barnes, M.J. Nutritional Compounds to Improve Post-Exercise Recovery. Nutrients 2022, 14, 5069, doi:10.3390/nu14235069.