| By Coach Jeff Green |
What are antioxidants? Antioxidants are substances that decrease free radical damage to our cells. What are free radicals you ask and why should you care? Free radicals are chemically charged atoms or molecule fragments with an excess of electrons. Why is that important? Free radicals release these electrons in an attempt to become more stable and this process can damage larger molecules. The most important free radical to athletes is ROS, or Reactive Oxygen Species. They are responsible for destabilizing MUSCLE tissue. In short, they degrade muscle proteins to the point that causes necrosis or cell death. Antioxidants help prevent this from happening on a larger scale also known as oxidative stress.
Antioxidants can be broken down into the following categories:
Carotenoids – plant-based antioxidants using plants own protective mechanisms to add to our own. Out of the hundreds known to exist, the most potent are:
Flavonoids – phytochemicals coming from veggies, fruit, grains, leaves and bark. Some plants have 50% more antioxidant activity than Vitamins C & E. The flavonoid in red grapes is more than 1000 times more powerful than Vitamin E! Some examples are: Catechins, Reserveratrol, and Proanthocyanidins.
Isoflavones – are found in soybeans and other legumes and are converted into phytoestrogens compounds that MAY have some cancer fighting properties. Examples are: Genistein and Daidzein.
Vitamins and Minerals – everyone by now, should be familiar with Vitamins A, C and & E. Also included are Selenium and Zinc which are powerful antioxidants.
Allium Vegetables – this group of veggies, includes garlic, onions, shallots and leeks. They are known for their cancer fighting properties, heart attack and stroke prevention, cholesterol lowering effects, and blood clot prevention.
Cruciferous Vegetables – these veggies (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cale, cabbage etc…) are rich in Vitamin C and some other flavonoids. They also contain substances called indoles and sulforaphane. Indoles inactivate estrogens that promote the growth of tumors. Sulforaphane also has cancer fighting properties.
Herbs – Bilberry contains anthocyanides, which keep capillaries strong that improves circulation and protects the eyes from night blindness and cataracts. It also tends to inhibit harmful bacteria growth and have anti-inflammatory properties. Ginko Biloba is known for improving circulation, especially blood supply to the brain. It is also responsible for increasing the ability to concentrate as well as male potency.
Enzymes – Coenzyme -Q10, also known as Ubiquinone, is a very unique enzyme. It provides our cells with the energy they need to carry out their functions. We produce fewer as we age and stress, infections, and bad eating habits also lower production levels. It has a hand in just about every metabolic process in our bodies and replacing it is of the utmost importance.
Hormones – Melatonin is a hormone produced in the Pineal Gland in the brain during sleep to help the body’s natural biorhythm. Its other benefits include retarding the aging process, repairing brain cells associated with Alzheimer’s, alleviating cluster headaches, and boosting the immune system. Melatonin is found in tomatoes and other vegetables.
Unique Antioxidants – Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that provides multiple benefits including: cell protection, liver cancer prevention, immune system booster, heavy metal/drugs detox support, reversing the negative side effects of smoking and alcohol abuse. Its greatest sources are fruits and vegetables, but try not to cook these foods because it reduces its potency. Lipoic Acid, also know as the universal antioxidant, enhances the potency of every other antioxidant in the body. It has been know to help reverse some of the effects of stroke and helps stabilize blood sugar levels in diabetics.
Anti-oxidants and Muscle Recovery
There has been some speculation on the effects of antioxidants and muscle tissue recovery.
1. There is some evidence that oxygen radicals play a role in cellular damage produced by strenuous training. Antioxidants help limit that damage and increase muscular recovery. They help reduce swelling and inflammation produced in response to the damage strenuous exercise bouts cause and they help remove waste from said muscles and increase muscle function. Alpha Lipoic Acid assumes these roles.
2. Athletes, by and large, consume significantly larger amounts of oxygen through their mitochondria than sedentary folks (by as much as 20 fold!) Thus the free radical production is also as powerful. Antioxidants have been proven to lower the production and the damage inflicted once produced.
3. Antioxidants also minimize collateral damage to surrounding tissues as well. Free radicals tend to have a PAC MAN effect and “eat” or damage all surrounding healthy tissue. Antioxidants tend to minimize the collective damage all around.
Think you can skip fruits and veggies or that vitamin/mineral pack? Think again…
Jeff Green, MS, CSCS, PES
For 27 years, Jeff Green, owner / operator at ICON Performance in Birmingham, AL, has been a highly sought after coach in the realms of elite athletic performance, strength sports, physique competition, injury rehabilitation, corrective exercise evaluation, as well as a wide array of other fitness and health endeavors.
As an educator, Jeff speaks at national conventions, conducts private seminars, workshops, and clinics. He also serves as a consultant for sports performance for several sports organizations.
As a coach, Jeff is constantly designing programs, evaluating & assessing, actively training, and exhaustively researching new techniques and methodologies for his client base. His elite athletes currently play in the NFL, CFL, AFL, MLB, and NBA.
Coach Jeff can be reached at email@example.com and you can also visit him at his website at www.iconperformanceonline.com.