A-Z of Supplements for Sport and Exercise - Antioxidants

Antioxidants What are Antioxidants?

An antioxidant is any substance that delays or prevents Oxidative Damage in the body.

Examples of Antioxidants are:

- Vitamin C (Oranges, Guava, Red & Yellow Peppers)

- Vitamin E (Sunflower Seeds, Almonds, Pine Nuts)

- Beta Carotene (Sweet Potato, Carrots, Kale, Spinach)

What is Oxidative damage?

Oxidative Damage is caused by molecules called free radicals such as "Reactive Oxygen Species" (ROS).

Oxidative Damage results in the dysfunction of cells in the body. ROS are chemically unstable and can damage Proteins, Lipids and DNA.

Oxidative Damage can be caused by an overproduction of ROS or a lack of Antioxidants in the body.

Oxidative Damage and Physical Exercise

Physical exercise results in a increase in ROS production in the muscle. The production of ROS can contribute to an early onset of fatigue in the muscle during exercise.

Although, low levels of ROS are required for muscle force production during exercise.

Supplementation with the anti-oxidant N-Acetyl Cysteine has been shown to delay muscle fatigue during exercise.

However, the dose of N-Acetyl Cysteine required to significantly improve exercise performance results in side effects such as:

- Nausea

- Vomiting

- Diarrhoea

Thus potentially preventing any advantageous effects of supplementation on exercise performance.

Do We need to Supplement with Antioxidants?

The body already has several systems in place to counteract ROS production.

For Example: The muscle contains a network of enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidant defence mechanisms. These mechanisms work together with Antioxidants from the Diet to counteract ROS production.

Regular exercise training increases the amount of antioxidants present in the muscle. And if nutrient dense food choices are consumed, there is no need to supplement with extra antioxidants.

Supplementation with antioxidants may actually decrease any exercise induced muscle adaptations. As Antioxidant supplementation (vitamin C & E) has shown to blunt mitochondrial biogenesis.

The mitochondria is a part of the cell where energy production takes place, mitochondrial biogenesis is the creation of new mitochondria. An increase in mitochondria results in a greater intake of oxygen, thus improving exercise performance.

Can Antioxidant supplementation improve my health?

A meta-analysis research study assessed whether supplementing with antioxidants increased mortality. This study assessed 232,606 subjects and found that irrespective of the dosage, there was no association with an increase in mortality.

To conclude supplementation with antioxidants may not be necessary. As long as nutrient dense foods are incorporated into the diet, there is no need for an excess intake of antioxidants. Supplementation with antioxidants could potentially decrease exercise performance and the beneficial adaptations associated with exercise.

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