N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
What is N-Acetyl Cysteine?
N-Acetyl Cysteine or NAC is a more stable form of l-cysteine. L-cysteine can be found in dietary sources whereas NAC cannot, and must be taken as a supplement. NAC is an antioxidant which can help to clear free radicals from the body, avoiding the oxidative damage that could otherwise be caused. The scientific understanding is that by reducing oxidative damage, some cancers can be prevented, and the ageing process can be slowed down.
NAC is beneficial to athletes as they rely on a healthy immune system to ensure optimum performance. NAC protects the body from harmful oxidants which can weaken the immune system. It is also useful for steroid users who want to promote liver recovery. Most famously, NAC is used as an antidote to paracetamol overdose.
If too high a dose of NAC is taken then users may experience headaches and dizziness as well as nausea, vomiting and stomach pain. It is also known to cause the body to excrete copper and zinc. As these minerals are crucial to the functioning of our hormone system it is advisable to take a copper and zinc supplement if you were using NAC.
On the whole, NAC is tolerated well, and it is not known to have any contraindications with other supplements or drugs.
How does it work?
NAC works by encouraging the production of glutathione, which is an antioxidant produced in the body's cells. If glutathione levels are reduced as a result of poor diet, oxidative damage or stress then they sometimes need a boost.
If bodybuilders have been using anabolic substances, then their levels of liver enzymes may be raised. Raised liver enzymes are indicative of inflammation in the liver which can then lead to hepatitis. NAC can be used as a post cycle therapy to help promote normal liver function.
More generally, NAC protects against toxins in the body which contribute to overall well-being and a healthy immune system. A healthy body enables athletes to train and perform to their best capability.