Whether you’re an athlete who is working out 24/7 to reach the top of your game, or you’re a weekend warrior trying to stay in shape and maintain a healthy lifestyle, there is a drive and determination to be successful. Athletes put in tremendous amounts of time on the court, track, field, gym, or in the studio training and practicing to ensure they reach their goals.
During all this training, it’s easy for athletes to get lost in the sport and forgot about the main culprit of success, your health and body. As an athlete, your bodies crave and require exceptional nutrition. It’s vital for the body to receive what it needs to perform at its best and recover from workouts. One way to make certain you’re are receiving the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is through supplementation. Many athletes lean on supplementation to help them perform their best.
Before that though, it’s important to understand the science behind supplements and why they are so beneficial for athletes.
Let’s start with the basics…
Why Are Nutrients So Important?
Nutrients are rich in a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and if you’ve ever wondered why you’ve been told your entire life to “eat your fruits and vegetables,” it’s primarily because of the breadth of antioxidants and other cofactors that exist in fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants are literally ANTI-oxidation and nature’s answer to oxidation is ANTIoxidants.
The medical literature tells us that eating five to six servings of fruits and vegetables daily can reduce one’s risk for heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. It also tells us that over 70 long-term degenerative diseases come via chronic oxidation.
The Importance of Antioxidants
To understand antioxidants, we need to first talk about free radicals. Free radicals are unpaired atoms or molecules that are missing an electron. They are highly unstable and scavenge the body in search of an electron to stabilize. If they’re left unpaired, free radicals can cause damage to various parts of cells such as proteins, DNA, and cell membranes by stealing their electrons. This process is known as oxidation.
Antioxidants, which are known as “free radical scavengers,” lend an electron to free radicals and neutralize them before they oxidize, which in turn protects the underlying cell structures.
Oxidation And Its Impact On Training
There are an abundance of studies that show that with vigorous exercise, the body is subject to enhanced free radical production and oxidative stress, thus the body requires more antioxidants to protect from free radical-induced oxidative stress (which is a byproduct of vigorous exercise). During physical exercise, we know athletes increase their oxygen intake as well as activate specific metabolic paths, which results in the formation of free radicals and oxidative stress.
As discussed earlier, oxidative stress has been linked to many long-term chronic diseases. In athletes, however, oxidative stress has demonstrated short-term links to fatigue, muscle damage, reduced immune function, prolonged recovery, etc. All of these factors can have a negative impact on an athlete. It can quickly impair your workout and training performance. If an your performance isn’t at 100%, it can have an impact on the rate at which you achieve your goals.
It’s All About Balance
The number of free radicals the body produces is not steady, and some days the body produces more than others. For example, the body produces more free radicals on strenuous training days versus a rest day and during moments of increased physiological intensity (competition, matches, etc.). There are also environmental factors that lead to increased free radical production such as air pollution, food supply issues (hydrogenated oils, processed foods), medication intake, and other forms of stress.
When coupling exercise-induced free radical production and oxidative stress with unavoidable environmental factors, it is critical to consume the proper breadth, quantity, and quality of antioxidants to promote balance. Put another way, if free radical production and oxidation consistently overwhelm your body’s antioxidant levels, over time your cells take the brunt of this damage, which can lead to both short-term and long-term issues as discussed.
Supplementation for Athletes
It’s not practical or possible to get the breadth and levels of antioxidants that the body needs for optimal performance from food alone. One of the easiest ways for athletes of all levels, whether it be an elite athlete training for the professional ranks, or an amateur training for the next Tough Mudder or half marathon, to both maximize performance and protect your health from the damaging effects of oxidation is to take a high quality, pharmaceutical grade vitamins.
Again, with the right levels and breadth of nutrients, the cells are better protected from free radicals and oxidation. The underlying cells will be less prone to damage from this process, and athletes can maximize their health both on and off the court.
Again, whether you’re an athlete who is working 24/7 to master your sport or a weekend warrior, you may want to consider adding a high quality pharmaceutical grade vitamin to daily regiment. When we say high quality vitamin, we’re not referring to the $9.99 bin in the aisle at Walmart of Costco, as in the supplement industry you get what you pay for, and your health, performance and recovery are worth the investment.
This small addition to your training may have a positive impact not only on your health, but on your performance as well. You want to reach your goals and what better way to do that than through protecting the vital part of your success,your health and body!