Supplement Round-Up: N-Acetylcysteine (Pre-Workout)

NAC provides its antioxidant benefits directly within muscle cells, where weight trainers need it most. NAC not only works directly as an antioxidant to scavenge muscle-damaging free radicals, but it also boosts levels of one of the body’s most critical antioxidants: glutathione. NAC increases levels of cysteine within muscles, which is needed to restore glutathione to its active form. One study from Victoria University of Technology (Melbourne, Australia) reported that NAC directly raised cysteine levels within muscles while increasing levels of activated glutathione before, during and after exercise. All of this antioxidant protection is important for keeping muscle damage under control during heavy training.

Two newer studies from Bairro Unversity (Brazil) and the University of Oklahoma showed that muscle soreness and damage were reduced and muscle recovery was enhanced when subjects supplement with NAC before performing eccentric exercise (which causes severe muscle damage). In essence, NAC can enhance muscle recovery by decreasing the breakdown of muscle membranes and other important muscle cell components.

Lactic acid build up used to be blamed as the main culprit of fatigue during exercise, but new research now suggests that lactic acid may instead help muscles to maintain strength and endurance. Science is now focusing more attention on sodium and potassium imbalances in muscle as being the major player in muscle fatigue during exercise. When muscles receive the nerve signals to contract, sodium moves into the muscle cell while potassium flows out. As you complete more reps and sets during your workout, sodium levels build up inside the muscle cells while potassium levels decline. To prevent this problem, muscle cells have sodium/potassium pumps to move sodium out and potassium back in. But during intense exercise free radicals disrupt these pumps, causing them to become overwhelmed and unable to keep up. This leads to a decrease in muscle strength and muscle endurance and fatigue sets in.

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