Antioxidants have had a lot of publicity in the last few years, and are the main reason that certain foods are given the title of being a ‘Super food’. A few examples that come to mind are Goji Berries, Acia Berries and Blueberries.
But what is it about antioxidants that makes them so special?
Antioxidants are known to have numerous benefits on health and general well being. They do this by limiting the damage caused by free radicals which are produced in a process called Oxidation. Free radicals cause damage and even death to cells which causes muscle damage, inflammation and accelerated aging. Free radicals are the by-products of aerobic energy metabolism and so exercise of any kind can increase their formation. But it’s not only exercise that increases rates of Oxidation; environmental factors such as pollution, sunlight, smoking and alcohol all cause damage/increased aging of skin.
Antioxidants help reduce the damage caused by free radicals in several ways....
1. By binding to and ‘deactivating’ free radicals produced during exercise before they cause damage to the cells.
2. By strengthening and protecting muscle cell membranes against potential free radical damage.
3. By repairing the damage caused to cells by free radicals.
Therefore Antioxidants can help with recovery after exercise/injury, and for Bodybuilders this means reduced exercise – induced Oxidative stress and quicker recovery between workouts which enables you to push even harder even sooner in the gym!
Antioxidants are nutrients (vitamins and minerals) found in certain foods. Therefore by eating foods high in nutrients, you can increase the number of antioxidants in your body. The top 5 nutrients and their sources are listed below...
1. Vitamin C – Fruit such as Oranges, Kiwi’s and Berries.
2. Beta Carotene (Vitamin A) – Carrots, sweet potato, broccoli and spinach.
3. Vitamin E – Seafood, Nuts (Almonds and Hazelnuts) and seeds
4. Selenium – Food sources such as Brazil nuts, Fish and Meat.
5. Minerals such as Magnesium, Zinc and Copper – Whole grains, legumes and leafy veg.
All the above can also be bought in supplement form if you find it hard to include them in your diet.