Bodybuilders Need Antioxidants
Bodybuilders have an increased requirement for vitamins and minerals because of the increased energy expenditure and excess muscle damage that occurs during training. Many micronutrients are involved in antioxidant defence. During exercise, excess production of various reactive oxygen species and free radicals occurs. ‘Free radicals’ are the reactive molecules that contain one or more unpaired electrons in their outer orbital. Molecules with unpaired electrons are unstable, and will oxidise various components of the cell including lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. The body has multiple antioxidant defence systems to protect itself from these reactive molecules. Certain vitamins, minerals and supplements can provide protection against the detrimental effects of free radical damage.1 Without action, free radical damage can leave your body vulnerable to advanced ageing, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and degenerative diseases such as arthritis. Environmental factors such as cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes, radiation, excessive sunlight, drugs, and stress can increase free radicals. Despite our best intentions, exercise does too. Fortunately, exercise induces the production of some enzymes that fight free radicals. Body temperature tends to rise during exercise, and this may be another factor in generating free radicals.2
Role of Antioxidants For Bodybuilders
- Beta-carotene reduces free radical production due to exercise and protect against exercise induced tissue damage.
- Vitamin C maintains connective tissue, enhances iron absorption, and protects against free radical, and exercise related tissue damage.
- Vitamin E assists in the formation of red blood cells, scavenges free radicals and protects against exercise related tissue damage.
- Selennium preserves elasticity of the skin and produces glutathione peroxidase, an important protective enzyme.
- Copper assists in formation of red blood cells through aiding iron absorption, is required for energy metabolism and is involved with superoxide dismutase a protective antioxidant enzyme.
- Zinc is involved in energy metabolism and immunity.
- Manganese is involved in metabolism and superoxide dismutase a protective antioxidant enzyme.
- Coenzyme Q10 is a potent antioxidant which decreases oxidative damage to tissues.2
Supplements to Minimise Free Radical Damage
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a form of the dietary amino acid Cysteine, which is a powerful antioxidant. NAC is a precursor for glutathione. Composed of three amino acids (glycine, glutamate and cysteine), glutathione is found in almost every cell, and considered one of the most powerful anti-oxidants. Glutathione’s rate of production depends on the availability of cysteine, making supplementation with NAC beneficial. R-ALA (the R form of Alpha-Lipoic acid). Alpha-Lipoic Acid is both a fat and water-s oluble antioxidant, which improves overall energy as it improves energy metabolism. R-ALA is the biologically active form of ALA, as found naturally in the body. Its functions include protecting body fats against oxidative damage, and chelating harmful metals, preventing damage to the heart.
How Anti-Oxidants Help The Bodybuilder
Given the stresses of modern day living, contributed to by high intensity training, free radical damage is inevitable to bodybuilders. Minimising this damage is a crucial part of achieving bodybuilding success. By supplementing with the following vitamins: beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and the minerals: selennium, copper, zinc, and manganese, the lipid Coenzyme Q10 and the supplements: N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) and R-ALA, free radical damage cab be minimised.
1 Essentials of Sports Nutrition and Supplements, Jose Antonio, PhD, Douglas Kalman, Phd, RD, Jeffrey R. Stout, PhD, Mike Greenwood, PhD, Darryn S. Willoughby, PhD, G. Gregory Haff PhD., p. 313
2 Power Eating by Susan Kleiner, PhD, RD, p. 119