Oxidative Stress and Sports Nutrition

We all know exercise is good – building lean muscle, keeping our heart and lungs healthy and being active help achieve a healthy body and healthy mind.  But like most aspects of the human body, there’s a balance to be struck, in this case between doing enough to be healthy and protecting against the kind of physiological damage that can arise from oxidative stress.

Oxidative damage in our bodies doesn’t just arise from exercise – every day we generate tiny molecules in our bodies called Reactive Oxygen Species, or ROS.  As the name suggests, these are highly reactive molecules and they meet their need for a chemical reaction by damaging cells and cellular components, in particular DNA.  Mitochondria, which are the power houses in our cells producing the fuel we need for daily life and exercise, may be particularly vulnerable.  These ROS molecules are produced by living – converting healthy snacks to energy, using our muscles for breathing and movement, and getting rid of all the waste products we don’t want to hang on to. 

They are not something we can avoid, but when your exercise intensively you produce significantly more of these harmful molecules and there is a risk of serious oxidative stress and damage being caused to your cells.  If this damage occurs in the mitochondria, then there is a potential for impact on energy production.  Intensive training relies on effective mitochondrial function to provide sufficient fuel for activity in the form of ATP.

The good news is that our body has a number of defence mechanisms to guard against this, antioxidant capability that can step in and neutralize those ROS molecules before they cause cell damage.  Two important antioxidant enzymes are super oxide dismutase (also known as SOD) and glutathione.  These clever molecules step in and react with the ROS molecules.  Needless to say, eating the right food is important to ensure these enzymes have the raw ingredients they need to work, minerals like zinc, copper and selenium (the kind of minerals you get from raw nuts like the ones found in the healthy snacks delivered in a Nutribox). 

You can also boost your antioxidant defences by eating fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants.  These include berries such as blackberries, raspberries and blueberries and also artichokes, broccoli, pecans and even dark chocolate (particularly raw chocolate).

The mechanisms by which antioxidant compounds in plants work in the human body are varied, and probably linked to complex synergistic relationships that mean it’s not just about individual vitamins or minerals.  There are a whole range of antioxidant compounds in fruit and vegetables like flavonoids and phenolic compounds.  So the key is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, in a variety of colours, as that provides the greatest range of antioxidant compounds.

The healthy snacks delivered in your Nutribox are designed to provide a wide range of nutrients.  As many are processed raw and not cooked antioxidants can be preserved in their dried fruit and nut ingredients. 

If you want to find out more about our snack box designed specifically to support training click here  

  • Ann White
  • 29 Aug 2013

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