Antioxidants are compounds that naturally help your body deal with excessive amounts of free radicals. These are unstable molecules that can cause cell damage in our bodies and a probable cause of most chronic medical conditions today. The benefits of antioxidants are largely misunderstood and so there is a lot of misinformation around about them, which big Pharma and food manufacturers have capitalized on selling millions of questionable supplements to athletes around the world.
How antioxidants work
Free radicals can be formed in our bodies when normal cell development and processes are altered because of introduced substances such as pollutants and chemicals we come into contact with, in our food or the air we breathe as well as the substance we apply to our bodies. They can also be caused by radiation from the sun, radio ways and other radiation as well as from exercising.
Antioxidants come to our body’s defense because:
- Stable molecules have a balanced number of electrons, when they lose an electron they become unstable and have the potential of damaging other cells. Antioxidants are able to replace the lost electron neutralizing the molecule, they then redistribute their own molecules to remain stable.
- Free radicals try to steal molecules from other cells to regain their balance, to usually create another free radical which can the form a chain reaction.
- Intense physical exercise or activity causes the formation of free radicals when athletes consume foods that are high in antioxidants these free radicals are able to be neutralized.
- Athletes who consume foods high in Vitamin C and E which are some of the most powerful antioxidants find they recover quicker than without so they can resume training again sooner.
- During exercise ROS (reactive oxygen species) are produced by the skeletal muscles, which is a normal part of the body’s strengthening system. Natural antioxidants in wholesome foods are able to support this process and assist in recovery.
- Natural antioxidants if fresh foods such as beets, berries, green leafy vegetables have a positive effect, but studies have revealed that antioxidant supplementation using artificial compounds can negate many of the benefits of exercise.
- Having a diet that is rich in antioxidants helps to relieve oxidative stress, which is a product of all physical activity.
- Anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants found in tart cherries, dark berries, and other red foods have been found to give a significantly higher level of oxygen consumption.
- Studies have found that athletes who consume large amounts of high antioxidant foods have benefits such as reduced inflammation markers and a quicker isometric strength recovery.
- Athletes often look for ways to increase vasodilation, the widening and relaxation of blood vessels which can help their muscles work for longer and at a higher intensity allowing them to reach higher levels. Natural nitrates found in foods high in antioxidants are converted to nitric oxide, which helps to increase vasodilation.
The health benefits of foods that contain antioxidants have long been recognised because of the proof in the abilities of those who use them as opposed to those that do not. They assist the body in controlling the natural free radicals created by exercise and also those from pollutants.