In this day and age, all gym goers know nutrition is an integral part of any exercise regime, as a diet catered towards the training needs of an individual can enhance performance, improve body composition, increase fitness and release positive ‘feel-good’ endorphins (namely, serotonin and dopamine). Today we are going to look into ‘Superfoods! Eat yourself fit and healthy.
We hear about all the time and how the Antioxidants in these foods can play a massive role in aiding recovery from strenuous physical activity (Bailey et al., 2011; McGinley et al., 2009; Powers & Jackson, 2008) possibly as a result of reduction in oxidative stress and inflammation (Bell et al., 2013; Urso & Clarkson, 2013).
What is Reactive Oxygen Species (the sciencey bit!)
‘Free radicals are unstable compounds and cause damage to lipids, proteins, DNA and other biological complexes essential for bodily functions.’
Radicals derived from oxygen represent the most important class of radical species and occur during oxidative metabolism. Free radicals and non-radical derivatives of oxygen are collectively termed reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS have long been thought of as detrimental to health, resulting in the degradation of cellular material and leading to cell death.
Exercise induced Oxidative Damage
Tough, strenuous and unaccustomed exercise can cause muscle damage resulting:
•reduced range of movement
•decreased force production
We have all been there, a tough leg session means we are stiff and sore for 2-3 days, walking down the stairs sideways! These symptoms are known as delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) and can last 24-72 hours following exercise. DOMS occurs after intense eccentric (muscle lengthening under tension) and non-accustomed exercise as a result mechanical strain tearing the microstructure of the muscle, usually due to weight training activities.
In response to this damage the body begins a pro-inflammatory response. This accumulation of pro-inflammatory cell populations in the damaged muscles is likely to increase the inflammatory trauma to the muscles by releasing ROS in the tissue (Close et al., 2005; Howatson & Van Someren, 2008; Powers & Jackson, 2008). ROS can:
•disrupt membrane permeability
•disrupt calcium homeostasis
•weaken the muscle tissue
As a result of ROS buildup and reduction in muscular strength and performance, there has been considerable interest in antioxidant supplements and foods which may reduce exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammation.
So what are Antioxidants?
An antioxidant is any substance that delays, prevents or removes oxidative damage to a target molecule.
Antioxidants aid in the prevention of certain diseases such as cancers and cardiovascular and neurological diseases. Studies reveal antioxidants work in three different capacities:
- by preventing the formation of radicals
- by scavenging radicals
- by repairing the damages that oxidative stress has caused
Antioxidants from foods may be beneficial in reducing the effects caused by of ROS and may also improve recovery following strenuous exercise. Antioxidant rich ‘superfoods’ have been heavily investigated due to their high content of polyphenolic compounds, some of these super-foods include:
•mixed berry juice
•Montmorency tart cherries
The benefits of eating these ‘super-foods’ is massive, from a health viewpoint, as oxidative stress is linked to cancer development by causing injury to cells, inducing gene mutation and other degenerative diseases, evidence proves high amounts of antioxidants can reduce the ROS level in individuals who overproduce ROS and may aid in protecting them from cancer. From a fitness viewpoint, improving recovery time from strenuous exercise is advantageous and necessary to maintain high levels of performance.
I recommend you follow one of our training programmes and consume a diet rich in antioxidant ‘super-foods’ which is what I recommend as part of our bespoke Nutrition Programmes. I also recommend you supplement with an excellent multi-vitamin containing plenty of superfoods, Inner Angel Health offer an excellent product called Wheatgrass Multi-vitamin.