Vitamin E & Athletic Performance:

Does It Play a Key Role in Endurance Training?

For a long time, people rumored the benefits of vitamin E, claiming that it is one of the best supplements for endurance training. However, there wasn't any official research to back this up.


The Sports Medicine Study That Labels Vitamin E as a Safe Supplement


A couple of years ago, the journal Sports Medicine conducted a research on Vitamin E and

how it affects athletic performance.  According to the study, endurance exercise is believed

to contribute to a higher load of free radicals found in our body. Since Vitamin E is an

antioxidant, it helps in limiting the damage that free radicals may cause in the body tissue

including muscle cell damage and soreness.


Still, when it comes to sports performance, vitamin E may not be as beneficial as it is

thought to be. According to the preponderance of the evidence in the Sports Medicine

journal, "vitamin E supplementation cannot improve physical performance in humans that

lack vitamin E at sea level but may exceptionally improve it at a high altitude". Therefore,

the conclusion that was drawn from this research was that supplementing the body with

100 to 200 mg of vitamin E on a daily basis is recommended to all endurance athletes in

order to prevent exercise-related injuries and oxidative damage to the muscle.


Another View On Vitamin E Supplementation and Athletic Performance


In a report made by Richard Telford, Ph.D. at the Australian Institute of Sport, the

relationship of a nutrient with performance is given a slightly different approach.

According to Telford, there are two major questions that need to be addressed at first when

it comes to vitamin E and performance. The first is whether the dietary vitamin E is essential

to the peak fitness performance of the athlete and the second is whether those athletes

involved in strenuous training can benefit from the supplementation at levels higher than

the RDI (recommended daily intake).


There has been deep investigation of the effect of several months of multivitamin

supplementation that included vitamin E on a variety of components of athletic

performance. In it, the authors were not able to support the hypothesis that vitamin E is

actually beneficial on performance. This is due to the plasma vitamin E levels that did not

rise after 3 months and 6 months of supplementation. However, the authors blamed the

vitamins E and A on this, mostly because of their potential impairment in the multivitamin

preparations and their inhibited absorption.


In other words, Telford set a hypothesis and was not able to live up to it with the research.

However, a study made on medium to high altitudes (2000-5000m) on a group of prominent

long distance runners who received 300mg of atocopherol daily for 44 days had a significant

effect in terms of serum vitamin E concentration and improved performance. In percentage,

the improved results measure from 9% to 14% in improved aerobic work.


According to both of these studies, it is safe to say that vitamin E supplementation improves

performance under the conditions of chronic hypoxia. However, these results may not be

substantial when faster metabolism and greater level of oxygen are present, or may be

camouflaged by the effects that other vitamins had during the study (the Telford study with

vitamin A and E).


What About Vitamin E and Its Effects On Athletic Recovery?


Based on the results from the studies mentioned above, it is safe to say that people who

have high levels of oxidative stress due to chronic health problems can definitely benefit

from taking supplements that include vitamin E in doses that are higher than the

recommended daily intake.


This was actually the main summary of a research that was conducted by vitamin E expert

Maret Traber and three colleagues of hers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State

University, who again confirmed that long distance runners who used supplements of

vitamins C and E for six weeks before their race events - completely prevented the increase

in lipid oxidation and potential injuries.


However, the type of metabolic damage observed in these runners is also often found after

strokes, traumas, surgery and heart attacks, according to the research. The study clearly

showed that vitamin E and C can help prevent the significant levels of lipid oxidation

associated with these intense exercises. Additionally, the people who had a vitamin E intake

around the amount that is recommended by the US health authorities did not gain these

protective benefits.

Therefore, it is safe to say that vitamin E works great on aerobic activity for people with high

levels of oxidative stress and lipid oxidation - and also marathon runners that are preparing

for a race. Still, it is a larger question to determine who else could benefit from this vitamin.


No Discernable Effect On Training, Performance or Rate of Post Exercise Recovery


Another contemporary review of the effects of vitamin E as an antioxidant indicated that

although the supplementation may increase tissue or serum vitamin E concentration, most

of the evidence suggests that after all, there is no discernable effect on training,

performance or post-exercise recovery in either recreational or elite athletes.


In the end, vitamin E should be consumed at around 100-200 milligrams on a daily basis in

order to help prevent exercise-induced oxidative damage - especially by physically active

individuals and athletes. This is mostly because of the mixed success of most of the studies

that found vitamin E to be great for reducing exercise-induced muscle injury - but are also

skeptical when it comes to overusing it in individuals that are not professional athletes and

physically active on a daily basis.



Sports Medicine. 29:73-83, 2000.



Bree Hunter

Bree Hunter is a Calgary fitness model and personal training professional. Since entering the world of fitness modelling, Bree has achieved an extraordinary and unparalleled year-round physique and she is excited to help her clients reach the same levels of success. Bree's drive and determination saw her achieve high levels of success on the. . .

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