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What is Vitamin E?

Vitamin E is one of the essential fat soluble vitamins. It is actually not a single compound, but refers to a group of eight related compounds that serves the same purpose within the body. The best known function of vitamin E is that it's a powerful antioxidant that protects the body from free radical damage.

Where Does Vitamin E Come From?

Vitamin E can obtain from your diet occurs in many different forms. It exists as two distinct compounds, as tocopherol and tocotrienol, and each of these compounds each have four configurations; alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. Alpha tocopherol and gamma tocopherol are the most common forms, and can be found in high concentrations in plant oils, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin E Benefits

Vitamin E is an essential antioxidant in the body. It protects the body from free radical damage that is a result of day to day life. Because vitamin E is fat soluble, it can be incorporated into cell membranes to protect them from oxidation. This includes protecting white blood cells, and hence plays a role in the maintenance of the immune system.

Vitamin E Benefits for Recovery

There is evidence to suggest that antioxidant supplementation with vitamin E and other compounds may provide protection from cellular damage from the synthesis of free radicals during exercise (McBride, 1999). It has been found that when supplemented with 400 IU vitamin E twice a day, subjects experienced accelerated muscle recovery (Cannon et al, 1990). Consequently, you need to make sure your supply of vitamin E is topped up to help speed up recovery and achieve faster gains.

Vitamin E Negatives and Side Effects

Although vitamin E is essential to health and also provides anti-oxidative protection during workouts, it is important to keep in mind that it does not directly provide any improvements in performance (Kreider et al, 2010).

Typical of fat soluble vitamins, excessive consumption of vitamin E may be harmful. For adults, the daily upper limit of vitamin E consumption should remain below 1000 mg (or 1500 IU). Exceeding this may cause bleeding disorders (NIH, 2007).

Other things that you should make note of when considering vitamin E supplementation is that vitamin E is known to have some drug interactions. For example, large doses of vitamin E is not recommended for those taking anticoagulation medication or those undergoing chemotherapy (NIH, 2007).

Vitamin E Recommended Dose and Ingredient Timing

For most people, the recommended daily intake of vitamin E is around 11 mg (or 22.4 IU)/day (NIH, 2011). However, the demand for vitamin E increases during times of stress. With intensive training, more free radicals are produced, and therefore, more vitamin E is needed to scavenge the free radicals. Furthermore, many of us know about the benefits of unsaturated fatty acids (such as omega 3s). These have benefits for bodybuilding as well as general health. However, eating more unsaturated fatty acids results in cell membranes becoming more unsaturated and vulnerable to oxidation. In this case, more vitamin E is needed to protect these cells. Considering these two factors, boosting this to 400 IU twice a day may help improve recovery, as well as provide enough vitamin E to account for your extra intake of unsaturated fatty acids. However, doses much lower than this (but above 22.4 IU) will still be beneficial as an antioxidant. Vitamin E can be taken with food.

Vitamin E Supplements

Vitamin E can be found as a stand-alone capsule and are usually included in multivitamins. Lower doses can be found in a huge range of supplements including protein bars, some weight gainers, fat burners, and much much more. Be sure to look out for other names of vitamin E such as tocopherol.

Stacking Vitamin E

Vitamin E can be stacked with almost anything. However, it works well when used together with vitamin C and selenium. Be sure to look out for these supplements as well.

Cannon et al (1990), Acute phase response in exercise: interaction of age and vitamin E on neutrophils and muscle enzyme release. AJP – Regu Physiol, 259: R1214-R1219
Kreider et al (2010), ISSN exercise & sport nutrition review: research & recommendations. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 7 (online)
McBride (1999), Free Radicals, Exercise, and Antioxidants. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 13: 175-183
NIH (2007), Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin E. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institute of Health

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