Antioxidants 101

Antioxidants are involved in the prevention of cellular damage – which can lead to cancer, premature aging, and a variety of diseases. The scientific community has begun to unveil some of the mystery surrounding antioxidants and as information is revealed the case for antioxidants becomes stronger and stronger.

Athletes have an interest because of health concerns and the prospect of enhanced performance and/or recovery from exercise. The general public stands to benefit from the broad health benefits that antioxidants provide.

Antioxidants are molecules which can safely interact with free radicals and terminate the chain reaction before vital molecules are damaged. Although there are several enzyme systems within the body that scavenge free radicals, the principle micronutrient (vitamin) antioxidants are vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Additionally, selenium, a trace metal that is required for proper function of one of the body’s antioxidant enzyme systems, is sometimes included in this category. The body cannot manufacture these micronutrients so they must be supplied in the diet.

Antioxidants and Exercise Recovery

It is well known that vitamin deficiencies can create difficulties in training and recovery. Most data suggest that increased intake of vitamin E is protective against exercise induced oxidative damage. It is hypothesized that vitamin E is also involved in the recovery process following exercise. Currently, the amount of vitamin E needed to produce these effects is unknown.

Antioxidants to Slow the Aging Process

One of the primary theories on aging revolves around antioxidants or the lack of them. Free radicals build up in the body from sources such as poor diet, pollutants, stress, and exercise. Without a significant amount of antioxidants free radicals start to damage the structure and integrity of cell membranes within the body. As the cells are damaged they break down which accelerates the aging process. By consuming significant amounts of fruits, vegetables, vitamins and minerals you can help minimize this process. Antioxidants in these compounds act to stabilize free radicals preventing damage to the body’s cells.

An excellent source of antioxidants is the new super green foods powders that have recently shown up on supplement store shelves.

Dominick Walsh is a blogger for Performance Nutrition and and covers all men’s health topics and exercise issues including protein powders, diets, weight loss, weight lifting supplements, fat burners and supplement reviews. Dominick’s columns cover everything you need to know about your pre, during and post workout nutrition.