fitness Food Strength training Vitamin C Vitamin E

Are Bigger Muscles Better? Antioxidants and the Response to Exercise – Perfect Health Diet

Bjornsen Fig 1

We’re constructive towards some dietary antioxidants:

  • Vitamin C is considered one of our complement suggestions.
  • We additionally advocate greater-than-typical dietary intakes of zinc and copper, key elements of the antioxidant zinc-copper superoxide dismutase.
  • We advocate excessive intakes of extracellular matrix materials in soups and stews. That is wealthy in glycine, a element of glutathione, a key antioxidant. N-acetylcysteine, which supplies the different amino acid element of glutathione, is one among our therapeutic dietary supplements.
  • Though we don’t usually advocate supplementing vitamin E, it’s listed amongst our non-compulsory dietary supplements, and we consider vital numbers of individuals may profit from supplementing combined tocotrienols.
  • Though we don’t advocate supplementing it, our ebook notes the significance of dietary consumption of selenium, which is important for an enzyme that recycles glutathione.

A trendy opposite view has arisen: antioxidants not solely don’t assist, they will do hurt by interfering with oxidative signaling pathways.

Adel Moussa, proprietor of Suppversity, has promulgated this view, particularly the concept that antioxidants intrude with the response to train. In a submit final week, “Bad News For Vitamin Fans – C + E Supplementation Blunts Increases in Total Lean Body and Leg Mass in Elderly Men After 12 Weeks of Std. Intense Strength Training,” he checked out a brand new research by Bjørnsen et al [1]. In the feedback right here, Spor requested me to tackle Adel’s submit, and different readers expressed curiosity too.

The Bjørnsen Research: Muscle Measurement

On this new research, Bjørnsen and collaborators put a gaggle of aged males on a power coaching routine. Half the males have been placed on dietary supplements – 1000 mg per day of vitamin C and 235 mg (350 IU) per day of the alpha-tocopherol type of vitamin E – and half on placebo. They then assessed the response to 12 weeks of train.

Each teams gained muscle mass, however the placebo group gained extra. Complete lean mass, and the thickness of the rectus femoris muscle (certainly one of the quadriceps), elevated extra in the placebo than the antioxidant group. The lean mass improve averaged three.9% in the placebo group, 1.four% in the antioxidant group. Right here’s the plot of muscle thickness in the rectus femoris:

Bjornsen Fig 1

This muscle elevated in thickness a mean of 16.2% in the placebo group, 10.9% in the antioxidant group.

Up to now, so strong: it seems like muscle measurement can be bigger for those who don’t take antioxidants.

Adel concludes:

[Y]ou shouldn’t fall for … the bogus false promise that suffocating all the flames through the use of exorbitant quantities of antioxidants (and I’m as this research exhibits speaking about 10x the RDA not simply 100x the RDA) can be good for you, not to mention your coaching progress and muscle positive aspects…. [Y]ou can’t advocate additional-nutritional vitamins for individuals who work out – particularly not the aged.

I disagree.

The Hassle with Biomarkers

We now have to use biomarkers to assess well being, as a result of the issues we actually care about – like how lengthy we’ll stay – can’t be decided on the time scales we’d like to make selections in.

However no biomarker is an ideal evaluation of well being. There are all the time regimes by which a biomarker can look “better” however well being can worsen.

Muscle measurement is not any totally different. Different issues being equal, extra muscle is best than much less muscle. However there are methods to improve muscle measurement that hurt well being. We’ve to take a look at the improve in muscle measurement in the placebo group and ask: was this good or dangerous?

The Bjørnsen Research: Power

Fortuitously, Bjørnsen and colleagues additionally reported one other key biomarker: power, as indicated by 1 rep most weight. Right here is the knowledge:

Bjornsen Fig 2

The workouts that make the most of the rectus femoris muscle, the one which grew largest in the placebo group, are the leg extension (b) and leg press (c). And right here we see one thing fascinating: in each instances, the antioxidant group elevated their 1RM by greater than the placebo group. Sure, the enchancment was not statistically vital. However it was there. In accordance to the textual content, on common, the antioxidant group elevated their leg press 1RM by 18.7%, the placebo group by 15.eight%.

So the antioxidant group gained extra power however much less measurement than the placebo group. Which group was made more healthy by the program?

I’ll put my cash down on this: the smaller muscle that may exert extra drive is the more healthy muscle. A gargantuan however weak muscle is an unhealthy muscle.

Giant Muscle Measurement Can Be a Signal of Poor Health

To see that enormous muscle tissues could also be unhealthy, think about the well being situation of cardiomegaly – an enlarged coronary heart. When the coronary heart tissue is dysfunctional and incapable of exerting as a lot power because it ought to, the coronary heart grows bigger to compensate. Individuals who have such an outsized however weak coronary heart typically die an early demise.

We should always contemplate whether or not one thing comparable was happening in the placebo group of the Bjørnsen research. Their leg muscle mass grew bigger to compensate for weak spot. They wanted extra mass to accomplish lower than the antioxidant group.

What causes cardiomegaly? One contributing issue is a deficiency of antioxidants. When antioxidants are poor, oxidative stress generated throughout exertion leads to lipid peroxidation and tissue necrosis.

One in every of my favourite dietary research – I all the time present it at the Perfect Health Retreat to show the existence of multi-nutrient deficiency illnesses, illnesses that seem solely when you’re poor in a number of vitamins at the similar time – is a research by Kristina Hill and collaborators at Vanderbilt in 2001. [2] The operating title is “Myopathy resulting from combined Se and E deficiency” and that summarizes it nicely. Guinea pigs have been placed on one in every of 4 diets – a management food regimen, the management weight loss plan however poor in vitamin E, the management food plan however poor in selenium, or the management weight loss plan with each vitamin E and selenium eliminated.

One thing fascinating occurred to the guinea pig muscle tissues:

Bjornsen Fig 3

These are quadriceps muscle mass – the similar muscle whose measurement was altered in the Bjørnsen research. Panel (D) exhibits a wholesome muscle from the management group. The muscle fibers are lengthy, straight, and parallel to each other. Panels (B) and (C), the low vitamin E and low selenium teams respectively, are mildly broken however nonetheless practical. Nevertheless, in panel (A), the group disadvantaged of each selenium and vitamin E, the muscle fibers are severely broken. This muscle can’t exert pressure.

In the group disadvantaged of each selenium and vitamin E, the lack of power continued till the guinea pigs might not stand or transfer. At that time they misplaced the means to feed and started to die of hunger. This occurred in as little as 30 days. Right here was the survival curve:

Bjornsen Fig 4

The final guinea pig died after 55 days.

Why did this occur? The guinea pig muscular tissues have been broken by lipid peroxidation main to cell dying. They didn’t have sufficient antioxidants.

Hill et al didn’t measure muscle thickness, however it wouldn’t shock me if at 20 days the guinea pigs on their approach to an early dying had the thickest and most large quadriceps.

Can Muscle Measurement Be Used as an Indicator of Overtraining?

If progress in muscle measurement might point out muscle injury from both overtraining or antioxidant deficiencies, we’d find a way to use the response to train to assess vitamin or train load.

Let’s look once more at the Bjørnsen research. If the cross-sectional space of a muscle is proportional to the sq. of muscle thickness, then we will get a measure of power per unit cross-part by taking the ratio of leg press 1RM to the sq. of rectus femoris thickness. That’s 1.187/1.109^2 = zero.965 in the antioxidant group, 1.158/1.162^2 = zero.857 in the placebo group. Per unit cross-part, the antioxidant group misplaced three.5% in power, the placebo group misplaced 14.three%.

It seems to be like each teams might have broken their muscle mass; the antioxidant group simply did a lot much less injury. It seems each teams have been overtraining relative to their dietary standing. Maybe if vitamin have been higher, the response to train would have been higher, and power per unit cross-part would have elevated. Perhaps the lacking vitamins included antioxidants, and taking much more antioxidants might have enabled this rigorous coaching routine (designed “to stimulate as much muscle growth as possible”) to happen with none impairment of well being.

Is Bodybuilding Protected?

If giant measurement might be a sign of injury in muscle, then many methods which trigger muscular hypertrophy might be well being-damaging. The healthiest power positive factors may include solely small measurement positive aspects, as the muscle turns into extra environment friendly. It is just unhealthy muscle that turns into tremendous giant.

In that case, then bodybuilders, who’re judged on the measurement of their muscle mass, not their power, might be tempted to use well being-damaging and muscle-damaging methods, like antioxidant deficiencies, to broaden their muscle mass. Presumably the profitable bodybuilders will probably be those that use all efficient methods to develop muscle, together with the well being-damaging ones. So we should always anticipate champion bodybuilders to die younger.

I’ve not seen statistical proof, however anecdotal lore means that champion bodybuilders do, certainly, die younger, typically of coronary heart illnesses (indicating muscle injury). Listed here are two Youtube movies memorializing bodybuilders who died younger:


If you need me to consider that antioxidants are dangerous, the Bjørnsen research isn’t going to do it. It appears to me that the aged males who have been in the antioxidant group have been the fortunate ones. The 1000 mg of vitamin C and 350 IU of vitamin E they have been taking every day improved their response to train. Certainly, for all we all know their antioxidant consumption might have been lower than optimum!

The aged males who didn’t get the antioxidants ought to fear about their hearts. If their leg muscle tissue turned giant however weak, their hearts might have additionally.

Everybody who works out must be conscious: when it comes to muscle tissue, greater shouldn’t be the similar as higher. The healthiest muscular tissues are these in a wiry physique – modest measurement, however in a position to exert plenty of pressure.

Lastly, a pitch for our upcoming October 10-17 Perfect Health Retreat. Our recommendation is wise, complete, and more and more properly supported by visitor expertise. If you would like to find out how to optimize well being for the remainder of your life, and have a good time doing it, please come be a part of us.



[1] Bjørnsen T et al. Vitamin C and E supplementation blunts will increase in complete lean physique mass in aged males after power coaching. Scand J Med Sci Sports activities. 2015 Jul 1.

[2] Hill KE et al. Mixed selenium and vitamin E deficiency causes deadly myopathy in guinea pigs. J Nutr. 2001 Jun;131(6):1798-802.


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