British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Ascorbic acid supplementation does not attenuate post-exercise muscle soreness following muscle-damaging exercise but may delay the recovery process

Graeme L. Closea1 c1, Tony Ashtona2, Tim Cablea1, Dominic Dorana1, Chris Hollowaya1, Frank McArdlea2 and Don P. M. MacLarena1

a1 Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Henry Cotton Campus, 15–21, Webster Street, Liverpool L3 2ET, UK

a2 School of Clinical Sciences, Division of Metabolic and Cellular Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3GA, UK


Exercise involving lengthening muscle actions, such as downhill running, results in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which may be attributable to reactive oxygen species (ROS). Although exercise causes oxidative stress, any link between ROS and DOMS remains speculative. There is emerging evidence to suggest that ROS play an important physiological role, assisting in the recovery process and protecting the cell from future damage; however, this has not been fully established. Despite this uncertainty as to the precise role of ROS, attempts to prevent post-exercise ROS production through antioxidant intervention are still common. The study investigated the effects of ascorbic acid supplementation on ROS production and DOMS following downhill running. Subjects were assigned to two groups. The ascorbic acid group (group AA) received 1 g ascorbic acid 2 h pre-, and for 14 d post-downhill running, whilst the placebo group (Pl group) received a placebo. Blood samples were drawn pre-supplement, pre- and post-exercise, and then 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 14 d post-exercise for analysis of ascorbate, malonaldehyde and total glutathione. DOMS was assessed using a visual analogue scale and pressure algometry. Muscle function was assessed using isokinetic dynamometry. Plasma ascorbate was elevated throughout in group AA compared with the Pl group. Downhill running resulted in DOMS in both groups. Muscle function was impaired post-exercise in both groups, although a delayed recovery was noted in group AA. Malonaldehyde increased 4 d post-exercise in the Pl group only. Ascorbic acid supplementation attenuates ROS production following downhill running, without affecting DOMS. Furthermore, ascorbic acid supplementation may inhibit the recovery of muscle function.

(Received October 07 2005)

(Revised December 15 2005)

(Accepted December 19 2005)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Graeme L. Close, fax +44 151 706 5802, email