Vitamin E for Excellence !

Some people say that the “E” in Vitamin E stands for “everything” , or for “excellence”, and this seems quite true. Whole food sources of Vitamin E include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, avocados, shrimps, fish, plant oils, broccoli, squash, and fruits, and if you eat plenty of these healthy foods, you will easily get the RDA of Vitamin E. But, in order to fully reap Vitamin E-related athletic benefits, you will need far higher amounts of Vitamin E, than you can possibly obtain from a healthy diet ( i.e. 200 iu -1000 iu/day). This makes natural Vitamin E one of the most interesting and beneficial vitamin supplements for any athlete, who trains seriously, as it has a great deal to do with many important functions of the body and thus contributes in various ways to athletic performance, especially optimum recuperation.

To athletes, supplementation with Vitamin E is primarily important because of its role as a powerful antioxidant. Air pollution, environmental toxins, smoking, sun exposure, etc., are significant sources of so called free radicals, but by far the most free radicals are generated as by-products of normal metabolism (breathing and energy production). These free radicals – highly reactive, renegade molecules – are generated, when oxygen, which is delivered via the blood to the cells in form of O2, escapes the controlled metabolic process as negatively charged, highly reactive single oxygen ions. In order to become stable, these negatively charged single oxygen ions strive to combine with positively charged hydrogen ions, which they attempt to usurp from the fatty acids in the cell membranes. This permanent ongoing attack causes changes to the cells, weakens and damages them, ruptures their membranes and leaves them open to further injury including DNA damage.

The special relevance of all this to athletes is obvious: during vigorous exercise, athletes increase their rate of respiration (metabolism) considerably: their body takes in and uses between 10 and 20 times as much oxygen as during normal day-to-day activity, which means that proportionally more free radicals with the consequently increased potential for cell damage are generated in their systems. In the quest to pair with positive hydrogen ions, these free radicals attack the important polyunsaturated fatty acids within the cells’ membranes, the cells’ DNA and cellular tissues, like the mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, various energy-making and repair enzymes, and muscle tissue. The result is cellular damage; particularly dangerous is hereby damage to the DNA, which can lead to mutations that cause cancer. 

In regard to athletic performance, damage to the cell membranes is of major concern, since it renders the athlete’s cells unable to adapt normally to exercise induced processes. For adequate recuperation and growth, the athletes’ cell membranes, must be in good health for attracting vital nutrients into the cell interior and expelling waste matters; a damaged cell membrane may not permit the passage of nutrients or the discharge of waste. While impaired nutrient intake can lead to a cell’s starvation and death, the inability to discharge wastes can on the other hand poison the cell. All this makes it quite clear, how free radical accumulation through exhaustive exercise can result in a reduction in exercise induced processes in the cell such as repair and growth, decreasing the athlete’s ability to recover from training.

Fortunately the body is not left defenseless against this onslaught of damaging free radicals, but has a defense system to keep free radical damage at bay with Vitamin E being its most prominent weapon. Fat-soluble Vitamin E, which is contained in the fats and lipids in the blood, in fat deposits and in healthy cell membranes, counteracts the above described negative development by acting as cell membrane stabilizer and as a free radical scavenger.

It prevents DNA and other cellular tissue damage by quenching free radicals, particularly single oxygen and polyunsaturated fatty acid radicals, hereby synergistically cooperating with other antioxidants, especially Vitamin A, C and Selenium. Vitamin E protects cell membranes, by sacrificing itself, donating the hydrogen ion, required by the attacking free radicals. Therefore, it always needs to be sufficiently replenished to be able to continuously exert its protective properties. 

If you should choose to supplement your diet with Vitamin E, make sure to exclusively select the natural D-form of Vitamin E (such as in d-alpha tocopherol, d-alpha tocopherol acetate, or d-alpha tocopherol succinate), and be aware that natural Vitamin E consists of eight health-boosting compounds, including four tocopherol and four tocotrienol compounds in their perfect natural balance ! 

Dr. Christoph Klueppel
Master of Fitness Sciences
Specialist in Performance Nutrition

Ultimate Fitness Academy, Founder & President

NGA Education Director for SEA

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