When Workouts Work Against You
By Patrick Kelly, B. Sc
Free radicals are, basically, the by-products of living. The chemical reactions that produce our energy and digest our foods leave residues behind that damage cells (free radicals). Pollution, stress and urban living add to the problem. Live faster: more by-products.
Antioxidants are the vitamins and minerals that protect cells against free radical damage.
As an athlete you produce higher levels of free radicals. One study measured the by-products of free radical damage in highly trained athletes, moderately trained athletes and sedentary individuals. They found the highly trained group showed the highest amount of damage. More than just post-workout fatigue, free radical damage affects the systems and individual cells in your body and slows the recovery process. Supplementing with the right balance of antioxidants can help minimize these negative effects. The Colgan Institute recommends a daily dose of seven key vitamins and minerals in the following amounts. These dosages are guidelines for athletes and should be taken in moderate amounts at first, then increased as training levels rise.
Vitamin E (800 - 1000 *IU)
Vitamin C (2 - 5 gm)
Beta-Carotine (15,000 - 30,000 *IU)
Coenzyme Q10 (15 - 30 mg)
L-Gluthathione (100 - 150 mg)
N-Acetyle Cysteine (100 - 175 mg)
Selenium (200 - 300 mcg)
Athletes who train heavily use anywhere from ten to twenty times the oxygen of sedentary people. We radically increase the amount of possible free radical damage.
Here are some suggestions to counteract these negative effects.
A study conducted by Dr. J. Van Fraechem at the University of Brussels supplemented the diets of a group of healthy, young men with 60 mg (daily) of Coenzyme Q10, a core antioxidant supplement, for eight weeks. Without changing their exercise program, their maximum exercise capacity jumped 28 percent. Coenzyme Q10 is just one of the core elements you'll need for a balanced antioxidant supplement mix - balance being the key factor. In addition, they suggest:
Iron 10 - 14 mg
Zinc 15 - 25 mg
Copper 0.5 - 1.25 mg
Manganese 2.0 - 4.0 mg
Alpha-lipoic acid 100 - 200 mg
Lycopene 50 - 100 mg
While I can't recommend a specific formula for everyone, I can give you some basic guidelines for using the Institute's recommendation. If you decide to use antioxidant supplements, consider the following:
The more you train and the higher the intensity, the more likely your supplement demands fall at the high end of the recommendations. The lighter your training, the lesser the demand.
Most neighborhood nutrition stores carry antioxidant supplement packets that make the balancing act simpler. Be sure to start with a moderate dosage and increase as your training demands rise. Always remember the foundation of fitness is in nutrition. Choose your fuel wisely. It is what propels you forward, or backward.
Patrick Kelly, B. Sc. is an exercise physiologist and coaches professional mountain bikers in Japan. He is the director of Freemotion Training Systems in Canada. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org
*IU = International Units. Source; The Colgan Institute, 1998
Dr. Michael Colgan of the Colgan Institute emphasizes that the base line for training, recovering and racing well is a well-balanced diet that provides your body with a variety of nutrients. So choose your fuel wisely, because it is what propels your forward (or backward).
Please note: this information does not substitute the advice of a qualified physician or health professional and is not a recommendation. This information is given for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your personal physician for guidance.
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