The role of vitamin C in athletic performance

J Am Coll Nutr. 1989 Dec;8(6):636-43. doi: 10.1080/07315724.1989.10720338.


There is widespread belief among athletes that special nutritional practices--in particular high-protein diets--will enhance their achievements in competition. Supplementation with vitamins, especially vitamin C, is equally popular. But because genetic predisposition, hard physical training and psychological factors play a most important role in determining performance, and because any potential difference in achievement will be small, it is almost impossible to obtain scientific evidence of a beneficial effect of a particular nutrient. There have been many investigations during the past four decades of the potential effect of high-dose vitamin C supplementation on physical performance. The variables used have included maximum oxygen uptake, blood lactic acid levels, and heart rate after exercise, and in some cases performance was assessed in competitive events. The results have been equivocal: Most studies could not demonstrate an effect. On the other hand, a suboptimal vitamin C status results in an impaired working capacity which can be normalized by restoring vitamin C body pools. Athletes, who follow irrational, unhealthy eating patterns often not including vitamin-C-containing fruit and vegetables, are in need of nutrition education.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ascorbic Acid* / administration & dosage
  • Ascorbic Acid* / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Rats
  • Sports*


  • Ascorbic Acid