Thursday, January 31, 2008

Nutrition for Endurance Athletes Should Include Antioxidants

by: Dr. Keith Scott

Although adhering to a well structured training regime is the best way for athletes to achieve good results they need to look to their diets and dietary supplements to maintain good health and to improve post-event recovery. There are many different categories of supplements but perhaps the most important, and misunderstood, of these are the antioxidants. Numerous types of antioxidants occur; some are produced by our bodies while others are derived from the diet. Free radical-induced oxidative stress is an inevitable consequence of prolonged exercise and results in tissue damage, excessive fatigue, delayed recovery and overtraining. Endurance athletes need to ensure that they have an adequate intake of a wide variety of effective plant-based antioxidants.

Free radicals (including reactive oxygen species) are unstable molecules that can cause damage to DNA, cell walls and other structures. Most free radicals are by-products of the normal processes of energy production by the cell. A useful analogy is a car engine that releases exhaust gases during the process of energy production. Free radicals are the body's equivalent of a car's exhaust gases. The more work the engine does the more gases it will produce. Similarly, the harder and longer we exercise the more of these toxic free radicals we produce.

Antioxidants are substances that neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals. In order to counter the damaging effects of these unstable molecules the body has developed an elaborate antioxidant defense system. Although we produce our own (endogenous) antioxidants we also require a supply of antioxidants from our food. Some well known dietary antioxidants are vitamins A, C, E; ß-carotene, selenium and plant based antioxidants such as curcumin, quercetin, resveratrol and rutin.

One of the most important concepts we need to appreciate in this context is that we require a wide variety of antioxidants to deal with the many different types of free radicals that are released during energy production. One or two so-called "strong antioxidants" are unable to neutralize all free radical species. Furthermore not all antioxidants can reach all the parts of every cell. For instance vitamin E functions primarily in the "fatty" parts of the cell while vitamin C can only access the "watery" areas. Some antioxidants cannot cross the 'blood-brain barrier' and therefore cannot provide protection for that vital organ.

The body requires higher than normal levels of antioxidants to cope with the vastly increased quantities of free radicals produced during prolonged, strenuous exercise. One way of building up endogenous antioxidants is to exercise frequently. Athletes who train regularly have far greater quantities of endogenous antioxidants than those who exercise intermittently or not at all. As a result of exercise-induced free radical overload endurance athletes also need to boost their intake of plant-derived antioxidants. A number of clinical studies have shown that taking a wide range of plant-based antioxidants can help to counter free radical damage in endurance athletes. In addition they improve post event recovery and accelerate muscle repair – especially in older athletes.

On the other hand several clinical trials have failed to show that taking only one or two so-called "strong" antioxidants like vitamins C, E or Co-enzyme Q10 provides any benefit at all. In fact vitamin C in high doses (1000 mg per day) can be harmful as it slows post event recovery and aggravates muscle inflammation commonly associated with vigorous exercise.

Plants provide an extensive range of valuable antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Spices are the richest food source of these compounds followed by fruit, vegetables, nuts and beverages such as tea and coffee. Scientists have discovered that many plant-based antioxidants are vitally important in the prevention of diseases such as heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's disease – just some of the illnesses that are associated with free radical damage. As these plant compounds are powerful, effective free radical scavengers it is not surprising that they provide benefits to athletes who are frequently exposed to free radical-induced oxidative stress.

Antioxidant variety is more important than the strength of individual antioxidants. While it is important for everyone to ensure that they have an adequate intake of antioxidants, it is unwise to take excessive amounts of only one or two antioxidants like vitamin C or E as they may do more harm than good. To ensure optimum protection against free radical damage, endurance athletes need to eat sufficient quantities of fruit, vegetables and spices and take a supplement rich in an array of different plant-based antioxidants. Spice supplements provide the most comprehensive antioxidant protection for endurance athletes.

Dr Keith Scott is a medical doctor and a a keen cyclist. He is presently researching the requirements of antioxidants in endurance athletes and has written several books including the ground breaking, "Medicinal Seasonings, The Healing Power of Spices" and "Natural Home Pharmacy". For more information and to download a free pdf copy of "Medicinal Seasonings" go to:

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Can Antioxidants Help You Build Muscle? Effects of Free Radicals On Your Muscle

by: Chris Chew

Many people these days take antioxidants to counter the detrimental effect of free radicals. Antioxidants mopped up free radicals and convert them into harmless substances. Free radicals are known to cause body cell decomposition and therefore are the main culprit in our aging process. Free radicals are linked to aging diseases such as cancer and heart problems besides making us age more quickly. Since free radicals cause our cells to decompose, then free radicals will also degenerate our muscle cells.

Staying clear of situations that cause a surge of free radicals to surge is one way of prevention and taking antioxidants as a supplementation is another. There are many situations that will increase free radical activities such as sun burn, stress, smoking, alcohol consumption, pollution, exercise workout amongst others. Yes, we get a surge of free radicals when we exercise especially intensive exercises because we are putting our bodies under tremendous stress when we exercise. These muscle destroying activities will continue for hours and even days depending how intensive your exercises are.

This is where antioxidants supplementing comes in. Since antioxidants neutralize free radicals, it helps your muscles to recover faster and stop the ravaging effects of free radicals on your muscle and thus allowing better muscle growth.

So if you want your muscle to recover faster and grow bigger after your workout, supplementation with antioxidants may help. There are many antioxidants supplements in the market. Vitamin A, C and E are perhaps the better known free radical fighters out there. Some other excellent free radical scavengers are Green Tea extract, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Beta Carotene etc

So our mums although may not have known about antioxidants and its effect of free radicals on our body was right when they insisted that we take our vitamins.

Chris Chew is fitness personal trainer of fashion models, actors and male pageant winners.More of his health and fitness free articles here.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

How to Avoid Wrinkles and Look Younger

by: Valerian D.

A recent study conducted at the Berlin Charite hospital concluded that people having a high concentration of antioxidants in their skin have fewer wrinkles and look younger.

Antioxidants are compounds that act as killers of free radicals mopping up these unstable oxygen molecules that, in excess, can destroy the basic cells' structure and their genetic material (DNA) as well. Among the main antioxidants for the skin we can mention vitamins C and E, and coenzyme Q10.

Our body cannot produce all requested antioxidants on its own. It must to make up the rest of amount using ingredients such as beta-carotene as well as Vitamins A, C, D and E. The study confirmed that non-vegetarians had less antioxidants in their bodies than vegetarians. To help our body to complete its important task we must supply with fruits and vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, paprika, cabbage, oranges, lemons and so on.

Despite of fact it is not yet perfectly clear whether antioxidants can effectively protect against heart disease, cancer, premature aging, and other conditions, the study suggests that antioxidants decrease skin roughness, length of facial lines, and wrinkle depth. So, people with a normal diet can have their skin look younger by just adding lots of fruits and vegetables in their meals.

Valerian D is a freelance writer interested in issues affecting women and men as well such as wrinkles and anti aging.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Lowering Cholesterol Naturally with Antioxidants

by: Steward Hare

In this article about lowering cholesterol naturally with antioxidants, you will discover:

  • The facts about antioxidants
  • Why are certain antioxidants good at lowering cholesterol naturally?
  • How many antioxidants do you need to take to help in lowering your cholesterol naturally?

The Facts About Antioxidants

Free radicals cause damaging oxidation reactions within your body, antioxidants are substances which can help to guard your body from these damaging oxidation reactions.

The developments of degenerative diseases have been linked to these damaging oxidation reactions.

Antioxidants come in many shapes and forms; there are many foods, vitamins and minerals which act as antioxidants, such as:

  • Alpha-Lipoic Acid
  • Bilberry
  • Cat’s Claw
  • Co-enzyme Q10
  • Copper
  • Ginkgo
  • Grapeseed Extracts
  • Green Tea
  • Lutein
  • Lycopene
  • Manganese
  • Pine Bark Extracts
  • Reishi
  • Riboflavin
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin A (Beta-Carotene)
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Zinc

The antioxidants which are particular good at lowering cholesterol naturally are:

  • Selenium
  • Vitamin A (Beta-Carotene)
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E

Why Are Certain Antioxidants Good At Lowering Cholesterol Naturally?

Clinical trials have shown that by consuming vitamin C supplements, you can help to lower your cholesterol naturally.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which acts within your body’s fluids.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant with a powerful protective effect which acts within your body’s fats.

Clinical trials have shown that by consuming vitamin E supplements, you can reduce the hardening and furring up of the arteries.

Studies have shown that vitamin A and beta-carotene help at lowering cholesterol naturally, which reduces the risk of coronary heart disease.

Trials have also shown that the mineral selenium, which is a powerful antioxidant, can help to protect against the hardening and furring up of the arteries too.

How Many Antioxidants Do You Need To Take To Help In Lowering Your Cholesterol Naturally?

To help in lowering your cholesterol naturally, it is best to include fruit and vegetables which are rich in antioxidants within your diet.

If you also want to supplement your diet with antioxidant supplements, you will need to take the following doses:

  • 100-200 mcg of selenium per day
  • 10,000 IU (3000 mcg) of vitamin A per day
  • 100-200 mg of vitamin C per day
  • 100-200 IU of vitamin E per day

To cut down the costs, it may be a good idea to take an antioxidant complex supplement instead of separate supplements.

Warning: As with all supplements, please consult your doctor before taking them.

This is especially important if you are pregnant, as doses of in excess of 10,000 IU (3000 mcg) of vitamin A per day, can cause problems to your baby.

So, to sum up…

Studies have shown that by taking the antioxidants supplements and increasing foods which are rich in antioxidants within your diet will help you at lowering cholesterol naturally.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Antioxidants Can Be Found in Stevia Leaves

The leaves of Stevia which is said to be 30 times sweeter than sugar also contain antioxidants such as vitamin A and vitamin C. Aside from that, flavonoids such as quercetin and kaempferol can also be found in the leaves which adds to its potency as an antioxidant.

It's available as an extract and many countries including Paraguay, Japan and China use it widely not just as a sweetener but also for medicinal uses like aiding in digestion. Diabetics can greatly benefit from using stevia as a sweetener with an antioxidant punch.

A study from India indicated that the antioxidants in stevia can prevent oxidative damage to the DNA.

Read more of stevia.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mario's Antioxidant Needs

To illustrate the antioxidant needs of a person, let's examine how Mario(a fictitious character) spends his week. Only the antioxidant requirements arising from his physical activities will be illustrated. Other antioxidant needs caused by other free radical generators like smoking and toxins will be omitted.

Mario's antioxidant levels on a weekday

The alarm clock rings and Mario wakes up. It's a Monday and it's time to go to work. He stretches and pulls himself up and starts his weekday..

Every time he uses his muscles, he spends energy. He gets this energy from ATP(Adenosine Triphosphate) produced mainly by the mitochondria of his cells(aerobic metabolism or respiration). The mitochondria processes food and oxygen to produce ATP and free radicals are natural by-products of this process. If antioxidants were not around to neutralize these free radicals escaping the ATP production, substances within the cell including the mitochondria and DNA could be damaged because of the free radical chain reaction. Free radicals are highly reactive, they steal electrons from nearby molecules which starts a chain reaction. About 10.000 oxidative hits to the DNA of each of his cells occur each day. When the DNA becomes damaged, mutations can occur which can possibly lead to cancer. That's how important antioxidants are inside Mario's cells.

Mario feels sluggish because of his weekend sports activities. His body aches especially the muscles involved in chasing and hitting the tennis ball with his racket.

He rides the bus in going to work, walks a block from the bus stop to his office building and takes the elevator to reach his office located at the 5th floor. There he spends most of his time behind his desk. That's his routine from Monday to Friday.

The amount of ATP's that his cells generate depends on his activities. The more he exerts physical effort, the more ATP is produced. The more ATP is produced, the free radicals generated also rises proportionately. Mario's body adjusts it's antioxidant levels to match the physical activities that it is used to.

Mario's antioxidant levels on weekends

Juan wakes up earlier than usual. It's a Saturday and it's his time of the week to play his favorite sport.

Upon reaching the tennis court, he does some stretching and light jogging to warm him up. He spends energy using ATP from his cells.

Replenishing spent ATP from his cells does not always require oxygen. The phosphagen and glycogen-lactic acid system are anaerobic metabolisms which does not require oxygen to manufacture ATP. We'll only focus on aerobic metabolism since this is the system which uses oxygen and hence free radicals.

The game begins and Mario's top spins are performing perfectly. His backhand top spins require more mastery though. He chases the ball and hits it back with his racket to the opposite court. Mario is having fun! All these require his muscles to exert effort and spend ATP. A few minutes later, he begins to breathe heavily.

Aerobic metabolism as the name suggests require oxygen to manufacture energy. The more ATP to be replenished, the more oxygen is needed to produce it. That's why Mario breathes heavily to let in more oxygen. The blood vessels of his muscles dilate the the blood vessels of his organs and other parts of his body constrict to allow more blood which carry oxygen to flow to his muscle cells. Muscle performance is the priority in Mario's present activity.

Several more minutes later, Mario begins to pant. More oxygen is required!

About 2% of the oxygen used in aerobic metabolism can produce free radicals. Therefore free radical generation arising from aerobic metabolism rises proportionately with ATP production. Mario's level of antioxidant defenses are used to the free radical levels of his weekday activities. This tennis game is far too strenuous and too much energy spending than what his body is used to during weekdays. His antioxidant levels can adjust for some fluctuations of antioxidant requirements but not this much. Certainly oxidative damage can occur in his muscle cells before it can be neutralized by antioxidants. Thanks to what his wife prepared him for breakfast which included some fruits and green tea with lemon - they contain antioxidants which can help Mario's natural antioxidant defenses, the damage caused by free radicals in his muscle cells was not too much.

Later, Mario begins to feel some soreness in his body. He doesn't mind it because he is having fun.

This soreness can partly be due to oxidative damage but our cells have repair enzymes to handle that. Some can be repaired and some cannot. Those that cannot be repaired can accumulate over the years make those cells perform less than normal.

The next day, the soreness of Mario's body becomes more pronounced and he takes a rest.

Mario's weekday activities is not a good practice

As you can see, Mario's sedentary weekday activities is a big contrast to his sport activity on a saturday. His body's antioxidant levels cannot adjust to the sudden change. His body can adapt to his sport activity during a saturday if he exercises on some other days of the week. It is also important to do it gradually so that his body can adapt a smooth antioxidant level adjustment.

Mario may not notice the bad effects it has on his muscle cells but since oxidative damage can accumulate through the years, the manifestations may be noticeable later in his life. An example of how oxidative damage can accumulate over the years are the wrinkles on the skin. If you have noticed, people who are often exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun have more wrinkles than people who are less exposed to it. That's because the sun's rays can cause oxidative damage to the skin and overtime these damages becomes more pronounced and visible.

Researchers have estimated that each of our cell suffers 10,000 DNA lesions from oxidative stress. On a saturday, Mario's DNA on his muscle cells can suffer more than that.

Protect yourself from oxidative damage with extra antioxidants

To have our natural antioxidant defenses perform well, we need to have a regular activity. That would be hard to accomplish since sudden changes of activity cannot be avoided. Running to the office so as not to be late for example. We are also exposed to different free radical generators like smoking, automobile exhaust emissions, sunlight and toxins we ingest from food. Even our own body's immune system produces free radicals to kill bacteria and viruses.

A good way to protect ourselves from oxidative damage thereby preventing disease is to have extra antioxidants in our body. One good source are fruits and vegetables. Five servings each day are recommended by the Cancer Society. If not possible there are many antioxidant supplements available in the market.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

How Much Daily Antioxidants Does Our Body Need?

As many as 10,000 DNA lesions occur in every cell in our body each day. The major cause are the free radical chain reactions which antioxidants are meant to stop. This figure accounts for the normal daily activity which our body are used to. Deviations from these 'normal' activities such as heavy physical exertion, long exposure to sunlight, etc. can produce more oxidative hits to our DNA.

Free radicals are by products of our own cell's process for converting food into energy. Our cell's energy manufacturing plant, the mitochondria, processes food by a series of electron exchange with oxygen as the final electron acceptor. Along the way, atoms or molecules with unpaired electrons (free radicals) escape the process. These free radicals will try to stabilize itself by stealing an electron from a nearby molecule which is the onset of the free radical chain reaction. DNA which are inside the cell are exposed to these free radical chain reaction.

Natural antioxidant defenses

Our cells are equipped with antioxidants to stop these free radical chain reactions. Glutathione, SOD (Super Oxide Dismutase) and Catalase are our natural antioxidants. They stop the free radical chain reaction before they can cause oxidative damage to the molecules inside the cells especially the DNA. It's not perfect however, there may be times that the free radicals produced exceed the amount of antioxidants present leading to oxidative damage done to DNA before they are quenched by antioxidants.

DNA Repair

Damaged molecules or lesions in the DNA are removed by repair enzymes through excision and is excreted through the urine before possible mutation can occur. Not all damage can be repaired however, some are not detected and accumulates with age.

Damage to DNA can lead to mutations and can eventually lead to cancer

Antioxidants from other sources

Sometimes our endogenous antioxidants may be inadequate to handle the possible oxidative damage that could harm our cells. Potent antioxidants like vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin E and Selenium can be ingested from fruits and vegetables to further protect our cells from oxidation. The Cancer Institute recommends at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day for efficient protection. It is estimated however that in America, only 9% of the population eat the required no. of servings.

Our lifestyle or our busy schedule may prevent us from eating the minimum required servings of fruits and vegetables to gain optimum health from antioxidants. In this case supplements can come in very handy.

How much daily antioxidants do we need?

Our bodies are exposed to constant possible oxidative damage and our metabolism processes is a big factor. Our own antioxidant defenses may not be adequate for these exposures. The recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables may be a good guideline to follow. Different fruits and vegetables have different antioxidant potencies aside from its nutrients to fuel our body for optimum health. The so called superfruits like mangosteen, acai berry, goji berry and pomegranate have higher antioxidant potencies than other fruits so it would be wise to consider them.

When opting for supplements, choose the ones which have different combinations of antioxidants like vitamin c, vitamin e, vitamin a or selenium. Some antioxidant supplements combine extract from different superfruits.

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