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Friday, October 2, 2015

5 Ways to Boost Antioxidant Levels

Exercise: Increases  or decreases antioxidant levels?
“Wait, my jerk of a boss stresses my life, and these training sessions just create more stress?” a client recently asked, giving me a strong what-on-earth? look. She had just read a recent article explaining how exercise “stresses out” your system, creating all sorts of havoc.

Let’s get clear. “Stress” becomes a loaded term. There’s psychological stress, like when you get stuck in rush hour LA traffic and you’re late for that 3 p.m. meeting. Studies show consistent exercise decreases psychological stress.

But there’s another kind of stress exercise does create, churning out damaging free radicals in the bargain.

In case you forgot college biochem (you are forgiven), free radicals are like those sleazy guys you meet at the bar who will do anything to pick you up. These single electrons are desperate to find a hookup, and they create serious cellular damage in the bargain.

Here’s the bad news. Studies show high intensity resistance exercise increases free radical production.  Another meta-analysis that looked at 300 studies over 30 years found “single bouts of aerobic and anaerobic exercise can induce an acute state of oxidative stress.” 

That contributes to increased free radical production, and subsequently, oxidative stress. In fact, rigorous exercise can
increase oxygen consumption 10-15 fold to meet energy demands.  

That doesn't give you a free pass to opt out on the couch with Friends reruns. Even though stress increases while you exercise, your body adapts to become stronger and healthier.

Your body has a defense system called antioxidants that zap these free-radical troublemakers. Except when free radicals crash those antioxidant defenses, cellular damage scientists called oxidative stress results. Especially as you get older, exercise creates demands at a cellular level, stressing and potentially damaging those cells.

At the same time, oxidative stress isn’t always bad. Like the old cliché “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” a little oxidative stress helps your body become more resilient while improving your antioxidant defense system.

In fact, various studies show regular physical exercise enhances your antioxidant defense system and protects against exercise-induced free radical damage.

In other words, your body becomes better adapting to the exercise’s demands. The more you exercise, the better and stronger your body adapts.

From that perspective, the "weekend warrior" exercise mindset – sedentary during the week but vigorous exercise during the weekend – potentially creates more harm than good because your body never adapts to that increased stress.

You want to do everything possible to dial up that antioxidant defense system. Here are five ways to do that and reduce exercise-induced free radical damage.

1.    Combine weight resistance and burst training. Endurance training (looking at you, distance runners) becomes a surefire way to keep your body’s free radical production ramped up, wrecking your immune system and creating other havoc. One study found ultra-endurance exercise could create cardiovascular problems while increasing free radical production.  That’s why I prefer short, intense exercise, and combining weight resistance with burst training provides just the ticket to get an intense workout in under an hour that also helps your body become more resilient to free radical attacks.

2.     Eat tons of antioxidant-rich foods. This study analyzes the antioxidant amounts of 3,100 foods. Read if you feel so inclined, or just eat plenty of leafy and cruciferous greens, low-sugar fruits, and other colorful plant foods.

3.     Get good sleep. Studies show deep sleep helps increase your body’s antioxidant levels. Getting replenishing sleep also helps cellular repair, muscle recovery, and way too many other benefits to mention. If you’re an athlete (or heck, even if you aren’t), aim for eight hours of solid, consistent sleep every night.

4.     Control stress levels. Besides amping up free radical production, studies show chronic stress impairs your efforts to be physically active, and a vicious cycle ensues as your blowing off your workouts and noshing on deep dish. Whether that entails yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or just chillin' with a bestie, find something that de-stresses you and prioritize it.

5.    Supplement smartly. A few key supplements can deliver major antioxidant power. One study found vitamins C and E among your best antioxidant defenses, and you can get them both in a professional-quality multi.  Others include precursors to glutathione, the “mother of antioxidants,” including alpha-lipoic acid, N-acetyl cysteine, and my favorite, whey protein.

Are you concerned about increased exercise and potentially increased oxidative stress? What strategy would you add to increase your antioxidant intake? Share yours below or on my Facebook page.

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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!
© 2015 Jinifit, Inc.

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