From the hallowed halls of Penn State University comes a new study (J.M. McBride et al., "Effects of resistance exercise on tree radical production," Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 30111:67-12,1998) showing that vitamin E can prevent muscle tissue damage and
possibly influence muscle growth. The study looked at oxygen free-radical production in subjects participating in high-intensity resistance training (i.e., recreational bodybuilders). Oxygen free radicals are generated during and after training, dun to increases in oxygen
consumption, increased body temperature and increased levels of catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine). Vitamin E fits into the picture because it's a potent antioxidant and can protect your cells from injury.
So, if you can prevent free-radical damage to skeletal muscle, you just might be able to recover more quickly from training, and that could mean big gains in the gym. As far as developing strength and gaining size, recuperation is the name of the game. In the Penn State study, 12 men, all with at least one year of training experience, were divided into two groups: one group received 1,200 lU of vitamin E (400 IU three times per day), the other group received a placebo. The investigation lasted two weeks. During that time, subjects in both groups performed the following exercises in a circuit or giant-sets fashion: bench presses, shoulder presses, calf raises, leg presses, bent rows, arm curls and machine squats. The workout consisted of three passes through the circuit. Rest periods between sets were as follows: two minutes during the first pass through the circuit, one and a half minutes during the second, then a one-minute rest interval during the third. For example, the guys going through the circuit on the first pass would do a set of bench presses, rest two minutes, then proceed to shoulder presses, rest another two minutes, then do a set of calf raises, and so on until the circuit was completed. Rest time decreased on subsequent circuits. All exercises were performed for 10 reps. Amount of weight was based on a percentage of each subject's one repetition maximum (established at the beginning of the study). From all indications, it was a grueling workout.
In addition to the weightlifting protocol, subjects underwent a series of blood draws. The blood was analyzed for creatine kinase (a marker for muscle damage) and malondialdehyde (a marker for free-radical production). Results showed that this type of high-intensity bodybuilding workout significantly increases free- radical production, and this increase can contribute to muscle cell membrane damage.
Bodybuilders take note: The group receiving the vitamin E supplements showed a decrease in muscle damage due to free-radical production. The vitamin E actually acted in a defensive manner, protecting muscles from the ravages of oxygen free- radical molecules. In sum, this study showed two important things: 1) Training at high intensity can produce oxygen free radicals, and 2) Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant of benefit to bodybuilders. Previous studies failed to look at guys engaged in heavy weight training that involved several major muscle groups at once. These are very important findings because if bodybuilders can minimize muscle damage and maximize recuperation, growth is sure to follow.
Those of you who train heavy should consider taking a vitamin E supplement. If you take a look at its health benefits plus its effects on decreasing muscle cell damage, vitamin E is one of the best supplements a bodybuilder can take.