Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that is very important in steroidogenesis, and at the same time it keeps unwanted hormones such as prolactin and estrogen low. It also plays a vital part in making intense exercise possible as well as developing the muscles you want. It has powerful antioxidant properties that boost the immunity and are effective against cancer, aging, arthritis and cataracts. It protects cells, glands (thyroid, gonads, adrenals, pituitary, hypothalamus) and organs (such as the brain, etc) from oxidative damage. It also exerts a neuroprotective effect in the body.
It’s now shown that up to 93% of adults are deficient in this vitamin.
There are 8 different types of vitamin E namely alpha (α), beta (β), gamma (γ) and delta (δ)-tocopherols (TP) and alpha, beta, gamma and delta-tocotrienols (T3); all of them are referred to as vitamin E. The TPs are the saturated form and the T3s are the unsaturated form.
Tocotrienols exhibit antioxidant, antiproliferative, anti-survival (tumor and cancer cells), pro-apoptotic (cell death of tumors and cancer cells), anti-angiogenic, and anti-inflammatory activities (1). Tocotrienols have been found to exhibit superior antioxidant activity over tocopherols. However, the body prefers alpha-tocopherol above the rest, as the other forms are excreted at higher levels through the urine. This doesn’t mean the other forms are not important, the body’s need for them is just smaller. However, your body does need all 8 of them.
Vitamin E protects against the harmful effect of polyunsaturated fatty acids before they are absorbed in the body. And it also inhibits the effect on the peroxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Peroxidation is the oxidative degradation of lipids (fat cells). It is the process in which free radicals ‘steal’ electrons from the lipids in cell membranes, resulting in cell damage. Polyunsaturated fatty acids damage and destroy your mitochondria.
I visualize this vitamin as if it coats everything, keeping it in a sphere, optimizing what’s inside the sphere and just keeps everything running perfectly and smoothly.
Muscle building and integrity
Vitamin E protects the cell membranes against damage during exercise. It doesn’t show to enhance performance, but it does aid in recovery and keeps the structure and integrity of all cells, DNA/RNA and tissue (2).
It helps repair heart and muscle tissue as well as aid in the formation of new arteries. It also keeps the arteries supple, aids in vasodilation and assists in oxygenating tissue (5).
Vitamin E prevents oxidative damage by lactic acid. Lactic acid is a by-product of exercise, which is very needed for collagen synthesis, vasodilation and the formation of new blood vessels. But prolonged, elevated lactic acid induces too much inflammation. Lactate also causes the release of prostaglandin, which elevates estrogen. Hence, vitamin E will help eliminate lactic acid from tissue, and prevent its side effects.
Oxidative stress reduces muscle protein synthesis stimulation, but vitamin E protects against oxidative stress and ensures optimal muscle protein synthesis (MPS) to take place. It can’t boost MPS on its own, but ensures optimal signaling.
Vitamin E will also help you build better, healthier muscles and tissues faster by ensuring proper function and faster recovery.
Androgens – increases testosterone, lowers prolactin, antagonizes estrogen
Vitamin E was initially discovered in 1938 as a “fertility factor”.
As vitamin E is an antioxidant, it lowers oxidative stress (caused by free radicals) and therefore impacts hormones (testosterone and DHT) levels positively, by protecting them.
As a matter of a fact, testosterone levels, as well as free testosterone, have been shown to increase after vitamin E ingestion (483mg (721IU) of vitamin E acetate – which is tocopherols with acetic acid), as well as an increase to the responsiveness of testosterone to HCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin – Luteinizing hormone is a pituitary analog of HCG) (8).
Significantly lower cyclic AMP formation is found in vitamin E deficient Leydig cells. cAMP increases the activity of StAR (transport cholesterol into the Leydig cells) and enzyme P450scc, which convert cholesterol to pregnenolone (the first steroid).
Vitamin E is able to lower prolactin. 300mg (448IU)/day of vitamin E supplementation for 8 weeks lowers prolactin significantly in uremic patients with kidney disease and only minimally in normal men (as their prolactin was already in the normal range). (9)
Vitamin E is an estrogen receptor antagonist and it also blocks the aromatase. 2500mg vitamin E is needed to antagonize estrogen by 65%. (10)
Cortisol, however, is a stress hormone which will inhibit muscle gains and increase aromatase. Cortisol depletes glutathione levels, and by keeping glutathione high will help combat the negative effects of cortisol. Vitamin E keeps glutathione high. As a matter of a fact, only γ-tocopherol is effective at quenching free radicals. α-tocopherol is mainly involved in boosting androgens and metabolism.
Glutathione is also involved in the conversion of thyroid hormones T4 to T3 by increasing the conversion enzyme D2. This will increase expression of uncoupling protein (UCP-1) in brown adipose tissue, which will increase thermogenesis and energy burned, as well as increase steroidogenesis and the increase of muscle protein synthesis.
Before supplementing, first see if you need it, and if you have the necessary co-factors. Vitamin E are synergistic and antagonistic with various nutrients and can improve or worsen certain conditions.
Vitamin E synergists: Sodium (do it might be problematic if you have high blood pressure)
Vitamin E antagonists: Vitamin A, K (only at high doses each) and iron (reduces iron absorption)
Supplements and dosing
The highest sources of vitamin E are wheat germ oil, almonds, avocado and spinach.
I prefer to get vitamin E from wheat germ oil that’s properly extracted, or defatty, so it contains all the other benefits of wheat germ (plant sterols, ketosteroids, octacosanol, etc) and no polyunsaturated fatty acids. I would not advise to just supplement with one type of vitamin E, as that would not be ‘natural’, as various vitamin E component exerts different functions.
Two products I recommend:
- Tocovit (wheat germ extract) – 400IU vitamin E per serving, 30 servings (also containing octacosanol, other policosanols and betaine and choline)
- Unique E – 400IU α-tocopherol and 432mg mixed β, δ and γ tocopherol per cap, 120 caps (high α and γ content)
As vitamin E binds to a free radicals, it ‘deactivates’ them and then the vitamin E is “used up” and oxidized. However vitamin C helps to recycle oxidized vitamin E.
All in all, vitamin E will provide better muscle growth, androgen levels, produce a more intense workout, a better pump and a stronger immunity with a healthy overall body.
I like to call vitamin E the equilibrium vitamin as it’s involved in keeping things running smoothly and optimally.