Never miss a workout by incorporating these ten antioxidants into your nutrition regimen
You're fit, but are you healthy? Most likely, you're not as healthy as you could be. That's because when you work out, you produce free radicals -- highly reactive molecules that are missing an electron that allows them to bond to other cells to reek havoc -- and put your health at risk. As result, you take more sick days, or worse, miss workouts than you should. But you can fight off free radicals with
antioxidants and the ten below serve up not just benefits for your immune system but for your training too.
The Most Popular: Green Tea
If you aren't drinking green tea or taking green tea extract by now, you're way behind the competitive curve. Green tea is known for the benefits of its main active ingredient, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a potent antioxidant. It has been found to promote fat burning, increase exercise endurance up to 24 percent and, most recently, protect against skin cancer. Specifically, EGCG has been found in research studies to have anti-obesity effects, including reduction of body fat levels and waist circumference.
Make it work for you: Drink three to four cups of tea a day or take 300-400mg of green tea extract to reap its benefits.
For the High-Intensity Athlete: Quercetin
Quercetin is a naturally occurring, powerful antioxidant found in red grapes, red wine, red apples, green tea and broccoli. Just recently, Appalachian State University researchers proved that this plant-derived antioxidant can reduce illness and maintain mental performance in physically stressed athletes.
During the five-week study, 20 cyclists took 1,000mg of quercetin daily. Three weeks into the study, the athletes rode a bicycle three hours a day for three days to the point of exhaustion--this is where the physically stressed comes into play. The result: 45 percent of the placebo-taking cyclists got sick after the extreme exercise session, while only 5 percent of the quercetin-taking cyclists did.
Here's another thing: quercetin's immune-boosting properties didn't appear to take effect until three days after the intense exercise session. Researchers concluded that it takes significant stress -- when the athletes were under high oxidative stress, when stress hormones were high, and they were also undergoing muscle damage--to bring out quercetin's infection-fighting properties.
Make it work for you: Most people eat about 25-50 mg of quercetin a day. Pump it up by eating more red grapes, red apples, broccoli and drinking more green tea and red wine. Or, supplement with 1000mg a day. Either way, pair quercetin with vitamin C and niacin to aid absorption.
The Up and Comer: Astaxanathin
If you've got your eye on losing weight, then astaxanthin has promise to be the antioxidant for you. Known for improving eye health, astaxanthin may also offset the effects of a high-fat diet, according to researchers at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.
Besides the fact that high-fat diets can cause oxidative stress in the body and create free radicals, the Japanese mice study found that high-doses of astaxanthin kept the effects of a high-fat diet at bay. Specifically, mice eating a high-fat diet and taking high doses of the antioxidant did not gain as much fat.
Make it work for you: Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant that is thought to be almost 500 times stronger than vitamin E. Taking about 30mg per kilogram of bodyweight, as the mice did, will help strengthen not just your eyes but your body too.
The Post Workout Musts: Vitamins C and E and Selenium
If you hit the weight room, take this antioxidant cocktail: 1,000 mg of vitamin C , 400 IU of vitamin E and 90 mcg of selenium. These three nutrients taken together daily may help reduce muscle soreness after a workout --especially with you have taken a hiatus recently, according to a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
University of North Carolina at Greensboro researchers concluded that this antioxidant formulation reduced the biowaste that is produced from muscle stress as well as lessened delayed onset muscle soreness and sped up recovery. While some short-term tissue damage is an essential part of building muscle, excessive amounts can slow the process.
Make it work for you: If you're sore after your workout, reach for 1,000 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E and 90 mcg of selenium before you pop the ibuprofen. Better yet, take it after each workout.
The Clark Kent of the Vitamin World: Vitamin D
Vitamin D has become the super hero of the vitamin world and for good reason. Recent research has linked vitamin D deficiency to mood disorders, immunity deficiencies and cancer, to name a few. But for the athlete, vitamin D plays a large role in developing strong bones and muscles. First of all, have you ever wondered why vitamin D has been added to your milk? It's because without it your body wouldn't absorb the calcium it needs. In fact, without vitamin D only 10%-15% of dietary calcium is absorbed by the body compared to 30% when it is present. In addition, to building strong bones, vitamin D also molds muscles. Its active form binds to specific receptors in muscle cells causing muscle contraction and protein synthesis -- the buildup of muscle protein -- to be enhanced. Research shows that certain types of these receptors may be responsible for greater muscle size and strength.
Inadequate levels of vitamin D can be responsible for osteomalacia, a condition characterized by unrelenting bone pain, muscle aches and muscle weakness. It is difficult to workout with this condition; as a result, you loose muscle mass.
Make it work for you: The recommended daily allowance is 200 IU per day. However, most researchers agree that you need much more than that and recommend supplementing your diet with 1000 IU per day as cholecaliferol or vitamin D3.
The Master: Gluthanione
Gluthanione is a naturally occurring amino acid that your body produces to fend off free radical damage. It protects every cell, tissue and organ of the body by regenerating immune cells. Gluthanione enters your body through two pathways: your gut and your blood. When you eat gluthanione-rich foods, such as walnuts, or consume gluthanione supplements, it is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract but whether it arrives to other parts of your body intact has yet to be determined. So another way that you can get enough gluthanione is to supplement with vitamin C or glutamine. Both of which stimulate your body to produce more gluthanione and boost levels of the antioxidant in the blood stream.
How to make it work for you: There are a few ways that you can make sure that you have enough gluthanione in your body to fight off free radicals. You could take at least 500 milligrams of vitamin C; eat gluthanione-rich foods, such as walnuts, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables; supplement with glutamine (about 2000mg of powder as been shown to boost gluthanione levels); or supplement with 25-50mg of gluthonione per day.
The Multi-Tasker: CLA
Sure, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) has been on supplement shelves as a weight loss ingredient, but did you also know that it has powerful antioxidant capabilities? According to biochemists out of Dublin City University in Ireland, CLA is a potent naturally occurring anti-carcinogen. It turns out that the same reason we turn to CLA for weight loss--it decreases body fat composition-- is the key to its antioxidant power. CLA alters our body's composition to be less fatty and by doing so increases the body's oxidative stability since there is less fat to be oxidized by free radicals.
How to make it work for you: Don't stuff yourself with CLA-rich meat and dairy as these may promote the opposite effect. Instead, look to supplements made with cis-9, trans-11 CLA and take 1-3 grams with breakfast, lunch and dinner. This way you can get the benefits without the destructive fats.
The Circulation Czar: Ginkgo Bilboa
When it comes to making sure that your blood is flowing to all the right places, the little herb with the long history (more than 300 scientific papers have been written about it) is the one to take. Ginkgo Bilboa stimulates blood flow feeding oxygen to the body's tissues. This circulation booster ensures nutrients are delivered to the muscles so that better performance and recovery are achieved. How can ginkgo do this? According to a recent report in the journal Medicina, ginkgo bilboa has a tremendous antioxidant rating and a tremendous ability to fight free radicals -- more specifically, to prevent oxidation of fatty cell membranes that could block arteries.
How to make it work for you: Most research have used a standardized form of ginkgo that contains 24 percent of flavone glycosides and the usual dose is 40mg, three times a day.