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Are Antioxidants Important For Training?

We've all heard the word "antioxidant" but what does it even mean? Antioxidants are the front line in defense when it comes to combating free radicals that contribute to cell damage. They neutralize the effects of these free radicals, which are produced by your body, and reduce oxidative damage, which has been linked to degenerative diseases. But are antioxidants important when training?

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We’ve all heard the word “antioxidant” but what does it even mean? Antioxidants are the front line in defense when it comes to combating free radicals that contribute to cell damage. They neutralize the effects of these free radicals, which are produced by your body, and reduce oxidative damage, which has been linked to degenerative diseases.

It goes without saying that antioxidants have an important role to play. They fight against the ageing process, and the degeneration of cells in our bodies. All those things that can reduce our energy levels and make us feel old. The more commonly known of these being vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene and lycopene, which are found in fruits like berries, vegetables like artichokes and other healthy foods, such as nuts.

But are antioxidants important when training?

It is important to establish that the body also produces its own antioxidants in response to oxidative stress and the creation of free radicals. If left unchecked, oxidative stress can be damaging on a cellular level. The antioxidants released help to clear up the resultant damage and this is what DNAFit tests for: how efficiently your body produces natural antioxidants to aid in recovery, but we’ll get to that later. 

The logical answer is yes, they are important, as the energy requirements of intense exercise create oxidative stress, but recent studies have provided interesting insights into the role that antioxidants play in the body of an athlete.


Antioxidants During Training


Antioxidants haven’t been linked to improving performance of an athlete while training because the body can tolerate a certain level of oxidative stress over short periods of time. If it couldn’t then humans wouldn’t be able to be physically active without constant supplementation. It’s easy to forget that the body has natural defenses, and your genes contain useful information about how this works. 

If you’re exercising and you take an excessive amount of antioxidant supplements immediately around training, it can actually reduce the effectiveness of your workout. This is due to the fact that oxidative stress is one of the stimuli that triggers adaptations to intense exercise. Therefore, suppressing this stress can lead to a reduced stimulus, and reduced adaptation. In light of this, it is not recommended to take antioxidants too soon after training if the purpose of your exercise is to adapt and push your limits.


Antioxidants During Recovery


Another interesting aspect is the role that antioxidants play during periods of recovery. With regards to what was previously stated, antioxidants are linked with reducing muscle soreness and can also lower the level of oxidative stress in the body. This, in turn, makes antioxidants beneficial when you want to recover quicker and reduce muscle soreness.

If you are a competitive athlete who is taking part in events requiring repeated bouts of intense activity, such as the Olympic Games or the Euros, and you need to recover quickly after periods of intense physical activity then antioxidants have been found to be beneficial. Where athletes are looking to recover rapidly and go again at their maximum then antioxidant supplementation would be recommended. They are also of benefit to people who naturally produce lower levels of antioxidants, or who struggle to recover between workouts. But, if you want to adapt to training, be mindful that consuming antioxidants too soon could blunt the training effect, and prevent you from reaching your goals.


Antioxidants In Everyday Life


Oxidative stress and the production of free radicals is not only as a result of intense exercise. Processed foods, pollution and your psychological stress all contribute to elevating your levels. If you feel exhausted, lethargic or de-motivated then it could be free radicals at work. Including antioxidants in your diet could act as a solution and reduce your oxidative stress.

Antioxidants can play a very useful role in training and everyday life, but they must be used correctly in accordance with your goals. You need to think about what you want them to do for you and then take them appropriately, if you require them at all. DNAFit’s genetic test can give you a unique insight into your body’s antioxidant response, and this information can be useful when planning your dietary or supplemental intake. 

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