Include vitamin C in your post-workout shake to help clear cortisol from
the body and speed recovery. Vitamin C is often used only for immune
protection, but studies show that it plays an integral role in helping
to remove cortisol and minimize the catabolic stress response in a
For example, a study published last year in the European Journal of
Applied Physiology tested the effect of giving physically active men 800
mg of vitamin C for six weeks and perform a session of high-intensity
shuttle running for 90 minutes. Results showed that the vitamin C
produced lower cortisol levels post-workout than a placebo group, and
the vitamin C group cleared cortisol much more rapidly with
significantly lower cortisol at 1 hour of recovery.
Other studies show similar effects of vitamin C as an anti-catabolic supplement:
• A 2008 study had untrained men take 1,000 mg of vitamin C
pre-workout and do 30 minutes of moderate exercise. Post-workout
cortisol levels declined much faster than a placebo group and the effect
was evident immediately after exercise, and at 2 and 24 hours
• Another 2008 study had trained men take 1,500 mg of vitamin C for 8
days and perform 120 minutes of cycling at moderate speed in a humid,
93 degree environment. Cortisol response was 57 percent lower after
exercise in the vitamin C group compared to a placebo.
• A 2006 study tested the effect of giving 1,000 mg of vitamin C a
day for two weeks to trained men who performed a 2.5 hour run at 60
percent of maximal. Cortisol was significantly lower post-workout than a
All of the studies mentioned also tested the effect of vitamin C on
various other inflammatory biomarkers and found no significant
differences on these measurements. Researchers are still unclear why
vitamin C is so effective at lowering the cortisol response to intense
training, while not having much effect on inflammation. However, we do
know that vitamin C is released from the adrenal glands during physical
stress when cortisol is also released. The purpose of vitamin C may be
to quench the oxidative biomarkers produced when cortisol is elevated,
or some other unidentified effect. Researchers write that the data
indicate that vitamin C may actually have “hormone-like” properties,
indicating the overwhelming value in getting more of this nutrient.
A few things to note: All of these studies tested the effect of giving
vitamin C for different periods of time and not immediately
post-workout. The first point is to take it everyday or for an extended
duration, and you might as well take it post-workout because that will
help clear any excess caffeine or other stimulants left in your system.
Best results will come from a 2 gram dose, which is slightly higher than
those seen in the studies above.
Another benefit of taking a large dose of vitamin C daily is that over
time it will also elevate testosterone. Human studies into the effect
are sparse, but two recent studies show vitamin C supplementation for 30
days can improve testosterone levels in diabetic rats. Testosterone is
typically very low in diabetics, and in one studies, the vitamin C
totally restored testosterone levels and the rats recovered normal
reproductive function. In the other, vitamin C partially restored
testosterone and reproduction.
These results are impressive and suggest an even larger daily dose taken
at multiple times throughout the day is preferred. Consider taking 10
grams of vitamin C spaced throughout the day.