Athletes and Oxidative Stress

Simply stated, any situation in which the consumption of oxygen is increased, could result in an acute state of oxidative stress. One such situation is exercise.

For the most part it is considered that athletes are therefore more susceptible to oxidative stress and should increase their antioxidant defenses.  But like most things in life,it just isn’t that simple.  It appears that training can have both positive and negative effects on oxidative stress depending on load and specificity.  

Let’s find out more.

We all know the health benefits of exercise, and so if exercise results in increased reactive oxygen species (ROS), why are we encouraged to exercise more?  

It is based on the concept of hormesis.  

The term Hormesis has been adopted to explain how a mild oxidative stress associated with exercise can result in favourable adaptations that protect the body against more severe stresses and disorders.  It is based on the concept that exercise induces antioxidant responses in the body (to deal with the production of ROS).

In short,appropriate levels of exercise fire up antioxidant defenses to manage the damage caused by the exercise in the first place.  Remember, the body’s ultimate aim in life is to maintain homeostasis.  

In athletes, it is considered that their antioxidant defenses become incredibly efficient.  For the most part, when undertaking low intensity training, antioxidant defenses can keep up with the volume of ROS produced, but during high-intensity training, ROS production can tip the balance.

But it’s not just training we need to consider.  Free radicals are also produced in the body through exposure to environmental contaminants (pollution, smoke, UV light etc).  Ultimately, as an athlete, you will also need to consider your ROS burden before you’ve even gotten to training load.  

How to support antioxidant defences:

-         Limit exposure to environmental toxins/contaminants,

-         Include antioxidant food compounds like berries, nuts, leafy greens, spices, herbs, and you'll be pleased to hear, dark chocolate!

-         Avoid-overtraining– give your body time to recover and rebalance itself.

You will also find an antioxidant boost in our Fivaday – clinically proven to match what you would find in your five-a-day fruit and vegetables portion.

Whilst there is still discussion around the number of ROS produced from sport to sport, the general consensus is that antioxidants should be consumed as part of any training regime.  

So, join the Fivaday gang and get consuming as many fruits and vegetables as possible.