Evidence exists both for and against antioxidant supplementation by athletes, making it difficult for many to understand whether or not it will benefit them. NAC, however, is one antioxidant supplement that athletes can use to maximize their performance and minimize physical impact to the body without the blunting effect on training adaptations that many antioxidant supplements have been found to produce.
When we exercise our bodies are put under stress, and work overtime. While many other high-dose antioxidants have been proposed to help athletes recover, many have been shown to limit training adaptations due to their interference with the cell signaling that is necessary to adapt to higher intensity training. NAC, however, does not have this effect because it increases the synthesis of glutathione only when there is a demand for it in the body and only when the oxidative stress in the body demands it.
NAC’s role in increasing levels of the antioxidant glutathione in the body makes it an excellent way to strengthen the immune system. For athletes, though, the antioxidant-boosting properties of N-acetyl cysteine are especially important, helping the cells tolerate physical stress better, to reduce cell damage, speed up the body’s natural recovery process and aid in muscle growth. Moreover, recent studies suggest that NAC supplementation might increase the amount of time that athletes can do intensive physical exercise. For endurance athletes such as triathletes, long-distance runners, and cyclists this is especially important news.
Remember: athletes (and anyone else) looking to supplement with NAC should take caution to ensure that the NAC supplement they choose is a high-quality, safe, and effective formulation.