Vitamin C is an antioxidant that fights free radicals and has other regenerative/supportive functions like aiding in creating collagen (1). Vitamin C also keeps your immune system strong and fights inflammation, which is why your parents pumped you full of those orange vitamin gummies when you were a kid (2).
However, its importance is often misinterpreted, especially with people being so paranoid of viruses lately. Due to basic nutrient misunderstandings, people think more must be better. The biohacking community often encourages people to megadose thousands of milligrams of vitamin C daily, suggesting you'll gain invulnerability to germs and viruses.
But increasing your vitamin C is only relevant if you're deficient. More isn't better under normal circumstances.
The recommended daily amount is about 100mg, but optimal recommendations can stretch towards 200mg for more active individuals (3). Anything above this is generally unnecessary unless you're sick or training under severe physical conditions (4,5).
The average person who eats a few serving of fruits and vegetables a day should be far from deficient, but if your diet consistently resembles colorless fast food, here are some vitamin C rich foods to add. Eating as little as two of them a day can maximize your vitamin C benefits:
- Oranges or other citrus fruits
- Spicy and sweet peppers
- Strawberries or other berries
- Green vegetables, dark leafy greens, or green herbs
What About Vitamin C Supplements?
Supplementing with some additional vitamin C on top of an already solid diet can be warranted if you think you need to take extra precautions, like if you're going to be around sick people. But taking exponential doses definitely won't turbo-charge your immune system into another dimension as often claimed by biohackers.
Furthermore, physiology only allows you to "hack" so much before consequences occur. For example, high doses of vitamin C in supplement form can compromise muscle and strength adaptations, both acutely and long term (6,7).
So always keep in mind that optimal is optimal. More doesn't mean extra optimal; it means unnecessary or suboptimal. Get a couple hundred mg each day by eating plants, but kill the stupid and don't buy giant-dosed vitamin C supplements.
The Truth About Lemon Water
- "Office of Dietary Supplements, Vitamin C." NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Chambial, Shailja, et al. "Vitamin C in Disease Prevention and Cure: an Overview." Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry : IJCB, Springer India, Oct. 2013.
- Mark Levine, MD. "Criteria and Recommendations for Vitamin C Intake." JAMA, JAMA Network, 21 Apr. 1999.
- Hemilä, Chalker. "Vitamin C for Preventing and Treating the Common Cold." The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
- B. Douglas RM; Hemilä H; Chalker E; Treacy. "Vitamin C for Preventing and Treating the Common Cold." The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
- Bjørnsen T; Salvesen S; Berntsen S; Hetlelid KJ; Stea TH; Lohne-Seiler H; Rohde G; Haraldstad K; Raastad T; Køpp U; Haugeberg G; Mansoor MA; Bastani NE; Blomhoff R; Stølevik SB; Seynnes OR; Paulsen G; "Vitamin C and E Supplementation Blunts Increases in Total Lean Body Mass in Elderly Men after Strength Training." Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
- Paulsen, G, et al. "Vitamin C and E Supplementation Alters Protein Signaling after a Strength Training Session, but Not Muscle Growth during 10 Weeks of Training." The Journal of Physiology, Blackwell Science Inc, 15 Dec. 2014.