THE NITTY GRITTYWhen you do intense exercise, your body needs more and more oxygen flowing to your muscles to produce energy. But when you burn through that energy faster than you can replace it with oxygen, your body starts to pull the energy from your muscle, thanks to a process known as glycolysis. This can result in lactic acid buildup. B vitamins have been shown to improve the use of glycogen and help transport oxygen to your tissues. While the entire B complex is effective in boosting energy and supporting oxygen to the cells, when it comes to lactic acid prevention, B5 (pantothenic acid) is the star. B5 works to create cellular energy for tissues to use as fuel. This helps prevent lactic acid buildup from even occurring. B5 also boosts aerobic capacity and muscle energy. Intense exercise not only leads to lactic acid buildup but also to free radical production. Worse yet, excess lactic acid itself can also produce free radicals. Enter antioxidants. Antioxidants work to counteract the damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin C specifically protects vital molecules in the body from damage by free radicals and reactive oxygen species. These molecules include proteins, lipids (fats), carbohydrates and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA). It also plays a complementary role with other antioxidants, working to regenerate them from their oxidized form back into their reduced (active) forms.1-2 Glutathione is another potent antioxidant. It has been shown to be particularly beneficial in fighting exercise-induced free radical damage and oxidative stress.3 Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and protein is critical for muscle health. One amino acid, in particular, is important when it comes to lactic acid, and that’s L-carnitine. Carnitine is essential for the transport of fat into cellular mitochondria, where the fat is converted to energy.1 This helps your body pull the energy it needs from fat and glucose rather than the muscles themselves. Another amino acid - arginine - is known for nitric oxide production, working to improve blood flow and circulation through your arteries, also feeding oxygen to your muscles, where it can be pulled for fuel during exercise. Lastly, glutamine supports digestive function, as well as immune and muscle health. However, so much glutamine is used by the GI tract that little is left for muscle health. But ensuring you have adequate glutamine, your immune system gets a much-needed boost, and your muscle gain energy and fuel.4-5 Minerals like magnesium and zinc work their magic by working to reduce muscle cramping. Magnesium, in particular, has been shown to not only reduce leg cramps by relaxing the muscles, 6 but also to ease restless leg syndrome.7 Like magnesium, zinc also helps to ease muscle cramps. Additionally, by supporting healthy hormone production, it not only boosts athletic performance but can also help improve exercise recovery.8 Lastly, the NSAID Toradol works to reduce pain and inflammation following exercise, while GPC works to lessen recovery time.
References: 1. Carr AC and Frei B. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;69(6):1086-107. 2. Bruno RS, et al. Free Radic Biol Med. 2006;40(4):689-97. 3. Kerksick C and Willoughby D. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2005;2(2):38-44. 4. Rowbottom D, et al. Sports Med. 1996;21(2):80-97. 5. Castell L, et al. Eur J Appl Physiology. 1996;73:488-90. 6. Dahle LO, et al. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1995;173:175-80. 7. Hornyak M, et al. Sleep. 1998;21:501-5. 8. Web MD. Zinc. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-982-zinc.aspx?activeingredientid=982&activeingredientname=zinc. 9. Bellar D, et al. J Int Soc Sport Nutr. 2015;12:42.