Antioxidants And Its Role In Sport Recovery & Body Building
What are Antioxidants?
Before going into what antioxidants are, it is necessary to know what an oxidant is. Free radicals are unstable and very reactive molecules that steal electrons from other molecules (oxidation). This process results in the formation of more free radicals. Without an antioxidant to stop this chain reaction, it could continue to the point that all molecules have been oxidized. Oxidation can cause cell death, which can lead to many diseases and reductions in exercise performance.
Antioxidants can help to reduce cell damage, and hence speed up recovery and provide other beneficial effects for general health. There are many types of antioxidants, some of which are vitamins and vitamin-like substances (such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and coenzyme Q10), flavonoids, various enzymes within your body (catalase, superoxide dismutase, etc.), and other naturally occurring compounds.
Where do Antioxidants Come From?
Different antioxidants come from a variety of different natural sources. Plants contain abundant amounts of antioxidants. Some examples include aronia berries which contain the highest amount of antioxidants measured in plants to date according to USDA studies, black soybeans, dates, dark cherries, cranberries, broccolis, spirulina, persimmons, green tea, and beetroot.
Although there are many different forms of antioxidants with unique chemical properties, there are some general benefits of antioxidants.
Antioxidant Benefits for Recovery
Free radicals are produced by the body just from day-to-day life. However, this amount increases dramatically during exercise because of increased oxygen consumption. This could cause an overload of free radicals that the body may not be able to handle, leading to oxidative stress and cell damage. It is thought that supplementing with antioxidants may be able to reduce the damage caused by exercise-induced oxidative stress.
Specific antioxidants on their own and in combination with other antioxidants have been studied extensively by nutritionists and exercise scientists. The results of such studies are mixed and opinions vary, even among the experts. But there is evidence to suggest that antioxidant supplements are beneficial for athletes and bodybuilders. In some studies, when given a cocktail of antioxidants, it was found that subjects experienced reduced amounts of inflammation and markers of oxidative stress compared to those receiving a placebo. Results such as this give evidence to suggest that recovery may be more rapid from reduced muscle damage from antioxidant supplementation.
Antioxidant Benefits for Health
The effects of antioxidants have been well studied in non-exercise related fields. One noteworthy study was conducted on over 13,000 French individuals over 7.5 years. The results showed that supplementation with low doses of antioxidants lowered incidences of cancer and general death in men.
Bodybuilders Need Antioxidants
Bodybuilders have an increased requirement for vitamins and minerals because of the increased energy expenditure and excess muscle damage that occurs during training. Many micronutrients are involved in antioxidant defense. During exercise, excess production of various reactive oxygen species and free radicals occurs. ‘Free radicals’ are the reactive molecules that contain one or more unpaired electrons in their outer orbital. Molecules with unpaired electrons are unstable, and will oxidize various components of the cell including lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids.
The body has multiple antioxidant defense systems to protect itself from these reactive molecules. Certain vitamins, minerals, and supplements can provide protection against the detrimental effects of free radical damage. Without action, free radical damage can leave your body vulnerable to advanced aging, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and degenerative diseases such as arthritis.
Environmental factors such as cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes, radiation, excessive sunlight, drugs, chemicals, and additives in heavily processed food such as protein powder, and stress can increase free radicals. Despite our best intentions, exercise does too. Fortunately, exercise induces the production of some enzymes that fight free radicals. Body temperature tends to rise during exercise, and this may be another factor in generating free radicals.
It is worthwhile to mention that many protein supplements and drinks contain toxic chemicals that can cause damaging reactions in our bodies. A recent study by Clean Label Project revealed that up to 75% of the protein powders sold on the market contain measurable levels of heavy metals and BPA.
Role of Antioxidants For Bodybuilders
Plants are an excellent source of a group of strong antioxidants called phenolic phytochemicals. The three most important groups of dietary phenolics are flavonoids, phenolic acids, and polyphenols. Plants containing dark pigments such as aronia berries are especially enriched with phenolic phytochemicals. Certain herbs also contain extremely high levels of such compounds, such as cinnamon and turmeric.
- Beta-carotene, a natural form of Vitamin A reduces free radical production due to exercise and protects against exercise-induced tissue damage.
- Vitamin C maintains connective tissue, enhances iron absorption, and protects against free radicals and exercise-related tissue damage.
- Vitamin E assists in the formation of red blood cells, scavenges free radicals, and protects against exercise-related tissue damage.
- Selenium preserves elasticity of the skin and produces glutathione peroxidase, an important protective enzyme. An excellent natural source of selenium is sesame seeds and certain nuts.
- Copper assists in the formation of red blood cells through aiding iron absorption, is required for energy metabolism, and is involved with superoxide dismutase, a protective antioxidant enzyme.
- Zinc is involved in energy metabolism and immunity.
- Manganese is involved in metabolism and superoxide dismutase, a protective antioxidant enzyme.
How Antioxidants Help Body Recovery
Given the stresses of modern-day living, contributed to by high-intensity training, free radical damage is inevitable for bodybuilders. Minimizing this damage is a crucial part of achieving bodybuilding success. By consuming natural food enriched with natural antioxidants, free radical damage can be minimized.
Antioxidant Negatives and Side Effects
The other side of the antioxidant debate for exercise is that using antioxidant supplements reduces the body’s ability to naturally build up a tolerance to oxidative damage. Consequently, it has been said that the effects of antioxidants work best for non-trained individuals, that is, those that have not yet naturally developed their own internal antioxidant defense system.
Because antioxidants are not a single compound, safety and side effects cannot be universally applied across every antioxidant. However, these compounds are generally considered to be safe if consumed at sensible doses.
Antioxidants can be stacked with pretty much anything. Antioxidants can even be stacked with other antioxidants. In fact, this may be the most effective way to benefit from antioxidants.
Karviva Drinks: Your Natural Source of Antioxidants, Prebiotic Fibers & Protein
At Karviva, we take food and drinks seriously; our products are backed by science and research. We work to bring you delicious drinks with proven health benefits. For example, Karviva Detox Bean Sprout & Aronia Berry juice provides antioxidants equal to over 3 cups of blueberries! Complete with essential vitamins and minerals, Karviva Empower Whole Plant Prebiotic & Protein Smoothie provides high-quality natural proteins with complete amino acids along with added benefits of prebiotic fibers and antioxidants from black soybeans, cinnamon, and quinoa. Karviva ACE Sport juice blends contain natural antioxidants from sea buckthorn berry, collagen from wild salmon, and electrolytes from black sesame seeds. These are great choices for your speedy recovery and sustained energy.
- Bloomer (2007), The Role of Nutritional Supplements in the Prevention and Treatment of Resistance Exercise-Induced Skeletal Muscle Injury. Sports Medicine, 37: 519-532
- Fischer et al (2004), Vitamin C and E supplementation inhibits the release of interleukin-6 from contracting human skeletal muscle. J Physiol, 558: 633-645
- Hercberg et al (2004) The SU.VI.MAX Study A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial of the Health Effects of Antioxidant Vitamins and Minerals. Arch Intern Med, 164: 2335-2342
- Peake et al (2006), The influence of antioxidant supplementation on markers of inflammation and the relationship to oxidative stress after exercise. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 18: 357-371
- Ristow et al (2009), Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans. PNAS, 106: 8665-8670
- Urso & Clarkson (2003), Oxidative stress, exercise, and antioxidant supplementation. Toxicology, 189: 41-54
- Vassilakopoulos et al (2003). Antioxidants attenuate the plasma cytokine response to exercise in humans. J Appl Physiol, 94: 1025-1032
- Jose Antonio et al (2008) Essentials of Sports Nutrition and Supplements, p. 313
- Susan Kleiner (2013) Power Eating, p.119