What Are Antioxidants?
An antioxidant is a molecule that can safely stop the negative reactions caused by free radicals. We use the word safely because when free radicals come into contact with any of your cells, there’s often damage to the key parts such as the membrane or even the DNA.
Cell damage is pretty much the starting point for disease, ageing and various health issues.
The health and fitness industry has become increasingly interested in antioxidants. During training, from endurance to resistance training, an athletes body undergoes massive stress. Following the training, there will be an elevated level of free radicals. The resulting cellular damage from the training as well as the production of free radicals means they need to spend time recovering – antioxidants may offer them a speedier recovery period.
Antioxidants can be sourced from vitamins, hormones, carotenoid terpenoids and many natural phenols.
Where Do I Get Antioxidants?
This is a tough question to answer without a bucket-load of science being dropped over you.
The main antioxidants you’ll come across in your diet will be Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. All of which you’ll find in green leafy vegetables, green beans and Swiss chard.
One place you didn’t think to look for antioxidants is in your sleep! That’s right. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is a powerful antioxidant. There have been a number of human trials that have shown melatonin to be an incredibly effective antioxidant. Not only does it directly detoxify, it indirectly allows the stimulation of antioxidant enzymes and suppresses pro-oxidant enzymes.¹
Below is a list of foods that contain notable amounts of antioxidants, in various forms:
- Egg Yolk
- Bell Pepper
- Beet Greens
- Swiss Chard
- Collard Greens
- Green Beans
You might wonder why blueberries and other pigmented fruits haven’t been added to the list. These would fall under the category of polyphenol antioxidants – unfortunately, while the lab studies show incredible results, the research performed in vivo (real environment or “non-test-tube”) have shown that over 95% of the polyphenols or flavones are lost during digestion.
This makes them highly ineffective as a source of antioxidants.
Antioxidants and Exercise
We have already mentioned the stress that training puts on the human body and the cells within.
Endurance exercise increases the utilization of oxygen. The increase in free radicals (groups of atoms with an odd number of electrons) that increased oxygen-use causes, enhances the cell damage that occurs during and after training.
Free radicals will elevate in all situations that call for exercise, but it is more prominent in endurance events.
Your body has the amazing ability to adapt to different environments and circumstances, but those circumstances must be on-going for your body to be able to adapt. Long-term athletes who are frequently active have built-up the ability to defend themselves against free radicals. This will protect them from exercise and training sessions.
On the other hand, if you only workout once or twice per week, your body does not have the same defences built-up. Which means whenever you do a workout, your recovery period is extended, and the massive production of free radicals may cause long-term damage over time.
To summarize the key point here: It’s better for your health to perform shorter workouts more consistently and frequently throughout the week than it is to only perform one or two prolonged workouts.
How Much Should I Have?
If you seek more detailed advice about your diet, you should go and see your doctor or a dietician.
It is important to note that, while many micronutrients are considered to be antioxidants, in situations of overconsumption they have been shown to produce pro-oxidant effects. It’s obvious that mega doses of antioxidants are not necessarily healthy.
Instead, it is recommended to eat a healthy diet rich in vegetables and a little fruit. You’ll be ingesting antioxidants in their natural form and, unless you can stomach pounds of leafy greens, you won’t over-do it.
Healthy Recipes: Rich In Antioxidants
We have five delicious dishes that give you a nice healthy serving of antioxidants along with a whole range of other nutrients.
This recipe is low-carb and naturally gluten-free. You have spinach, bell pepper and cauliflower packed into a meal alongside protein-rich chicken. Who said healthy couldn’t taste great?!
Very simple and easy to prepare. Consists of egg, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms and a little hot sauce! Great if you’re looking a quick and healthy lunch.
Curry Chicken & Shredded Greens
Lots of veggies are found in this recipe. Cabbage, kale, zucchini, green onion and grape tomatoes will give you what you’re looking for!
Mexican Scrambled Eggs
Featuring some jalapeno for a little kick as well as some tomato and egg to offer a meal rich in protein and vitamins. To make it a little healthier, try serving them in a lettuce wrap or a zucchini-half.
Rainbow Veggie Kebabs
This recipe gives you a solution to your side-dish needs if you fancy a steak or grilled chicken breast. These kebabs will supplement your protein with nutrient-dense vegetables.