When we perform strenuous exercise our body produces free radicals which is why it is so important to incorporate antioxidants into your daily life. Not only do they clean up those free radicals but they also provide the internal support your body needs while exercising daily.
Fit vs Healthy
When we think of someone who is 'fit' or 'in shape' we think of muscle strength, a tri-athlete or a marathon runner. Exercise is necessary for overall health as it increases muscle tone, strengthens bones, stretches the body, supports cardiovascular health and makes us feel good! But does exercise alone automatically equal a completely healthy body?
Supporting the Inside of Your Body
To be truly fit and healthy, daily exercise must be coupled with supporting the inside of the body. Intense training can actually deplete the body of vital substances. Many athletes main concerns are muscle mass and increased performance, the primary focus can be on protein drinks certain amino acids and replenishing electrolytes - but what about other areas of support? Nutrients, vitamins & minerals, antioxidants, healthy oils (EFA's) and liquids are extremely important in maintaining a healthy body. Furthermore, weight management through exercise is more efficient while maintaining the inside of the body as it assists metabolic function and decreased bad fats. Not only is it important to support the body daily, it is important to choose healthy supplements, ones that actually build and replenish the body without compromising other areas.
Exercise and Free Radical Damage
Not only does the body need daily support, but for those that exercise extensively or are training for an event, antioxidant intake is crucial! When studying exercise physiology, I was amazed to find an increased amount of FREE RADICALS naturally created during a period of exercise. During exercise, oxygen consumption increases dramatically, which is a fantastic detoxifier; however, many of us do not realize that when the oxygen is burned, free radicals are created. If free radicals are not removed from the body - they can cause the body serious cell damage and compromised health.
What are Free Radicals?
A free radical is an atom, molecule or ion with an unpaired electron, which is highly reactive. Did you know that a free radical can tap on a cell wall up to 10,000 times a day? If the cell is too weak it can fall victim to the free radical, which enters the cell deeming it non-functional. These free radicals can even turn on damaging genes, which are precursors to many diseases. Don't underestimate the damaging effects of these scavengers; scientists now believe that free radicals are one of the major processes in aging and one of the underlying precursors to an unhealthy body.
How Free Radicals Affect Antioxidants in the Body
An example of extreme exercise and free radical damage in the body is the marathon runner or the tri-athlete who contracts a respiratory tract infection or cold soon after completing the event. The lungs become more susceptible to infection because of decreased glutathione levels in the blood - leading to a suppressed immune system. Glutathione is one of the main antioxidants that protect the body. It boosts the immune system, recycles Vitamin C, protects the lungs, detoxifies the liver and is involved in the storage and transportation of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. The added free radicals created during training and the event build up in the blood and deplete the antioxidants of the body, one of which is glutathione. The lung cells which have lost one of their protectors; therefore, become susceptible to cellular damage or microbes. This can happen not only to lung cells, but all cells of the body.
Support your Body with Essential Fatty Acids
Lastly, our bodies in general are not getting enough of the good, healthy, raw (non-cooked) fats daily. I find it interesting that people remember to put oil the inside of their cars but rarely think to 'oil the inside of their body'. Healthy fats are important in building and feeding brain cells, maintaining flexibility of the joints and tendons, protecting the myelin sheaths of nervous system, maintaining cellular walls, building good cholesterol, maintaining flexibility of the cardiovascular system, reducing the bad fats that we ingest and building healthy skin and eyes.
Recommendations to Support the Inside of your Body
It is crucial to eat nutritional foods high in fibre, antioxidants and healthy fats, but sometimes we fall short of consuming the amount our bodies need daily to stay healthy, especially when training for an athletic event. Be smart and add antioxidants, healthy fats and nutrients to your daily maintenance program - the key is prevention!