There is an increasing awareness of the importance of physical exercise for health.
Practicing sport on a regular basis helps to prevent and treat different types of ailments and diseases: osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, anxiety and depression, cholesterol, obesity, etc.
What are free radicals and how do they affect us?
Free radicals are reactive compounds, usually oxygenated, that cause oxidative damage to the cells that make up the muscular tissues of our body.
Free radicals are formed from the oxygen that enters our body, causing oxidation; as a general rule, approximately 95% of this oxygen is used by our cells to generate energy, while the rest generates free radicals.
However, in the case of athletes this situation increases, since when they exercise, 20% more oxygen is consumed than in normal conditions. This increase in oxygen consumption leads to an excess of free radicals in the body, thus increasing cell damage. This process is called oxidative stress and poses a health risk.
There are several causes of oxidative stress, but it is worth mentioning the following:
- The decrease in the body’s ability to burn all the oxygen it receives, since the increase in oxygen when exercising causes oxygen to leave the usual pathways through which it is metabolized, turning into free radicals.
- Another cause, very common in high-intensity athletes, is the oxidation of muscle lactate, since the muscle fibers release the enzyme lactate dehydrogenase dehydrogenase. If we add the increase in body temperature, the capacity to burn oxygen decreases, so more of it is converted into free radicals.
And, it should be noted that oxidative stress not only affects the muscles, but also the skin, since the body’s production of collagen and elastin is affected and causes loss of firmness, elasticity, wrinkles, etc., i.e., premature aging.
The power of antioxidants in sports
To reduce oxidative stress and stop free radical damage, it is essential to ingest antioxidants.
Antioxidants are necessary for everyone: athletes and non-athletes, young and old people… as they help to protect the body from free radicals. But, antioxidants in sport are essential, especially for people who perform high intensity activity.
Among the main antioxidants are:
- Vitamin C and E
- Selenium and Zinc
- Polyphenols, such as punicalagins and hydroxytyrosol.
Antioxidants can be found in foods: fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, green tea, eggs, seafood or whole grains, so eating a healthy and balanced diet helps a lot to meet the body’s needs.
So now you know, eat foods containing antioxidants on a daily basis and look for ways to preserve them!
At least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables of different colors are recommended.