You’ve heard it all your life that exercise is good for your health and wellbeing.
However, in one paradox of biology, regular high intensity exercise can increase formation of dangerous free radicals. These molecules damages cell membrane, proteins and DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) the materials that forms your genes. Long term consequences may be faster aging process and an increased risk of cancer.
What is a free radical?
A free radical is a molecule that’s missing at least one electron in its outermost orbit, which causes it to be negatively charged. Like most things in nature, free radicals seek to remain neutral, and in an effort to achieve this balance they bump up against healthy cells in your body and steal electrons from them. This process is similar to an electric shock that leaves the once healthy cell, damaged and mutated. Unfortunately the process doesn’t stop after damaging the first cell. This newly damaged molecule is now missing an electron and becomes a free radical. Each free radical that is created zaps electrons from healthy molecules to form new free radicals, thus creating a chain reaction that damages thousands of cells along its path.
Is exercise the only cause of forming free radicals in your body?
The good news is your body has inherited the ability to fight against the free radicals in normal conditions. (By producing three substances glutathione, catalase and superoxide dismutase). The problem occurs when free radical formation exceeds your body’s ability to produce antioxidants. This is when the athlete or the exercising individual uses 10 to 20 times more oxygen than of a sedentary person.
Exercise is not only the cause, environmental pollution, cigarette smoke and car exhaust contains free radical molecules. And the horror … research indicates mental stress is the highest cause.
Imagine that every time you breathe, free radicals are formed. This process is similar what you see when an apple slice turns brown when exposed to air. You body can defend against normal levels of free radicals. But if you exercise intensely, live in a polluted area and you have a stressful life the risk factor is high.
Why is it advisable to take your multi vitamins daily?
This is an area where we should educated people, it is advisable that all professional athletes and exercising individuals take Multi Vitamins daily. The fact is free radical formation can be prevented by taking in Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, selenium, coenzyme Q10 and glutathione.
It’s understood that people who have a well balanced diet, and who does take a Multi-Vitamin / Mineral and Antioxidant supplementation daily are free from risk. Ever heard of the saying “Take care of your body for the first 50 years of your life, and it will take care of the next 50”. Supplementing with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants with a balanced good diet will keep you safe and promote optimum performance.
Packer L, "Oxidants, antioxidant nutrients and the athlete," J Sports Sciences, 1997;15:353-63; Vasankari TJ, Kujala UM, Vasankari TM, et al., "Increased serum and low-density-lipoprotein antioxidant potential after antioxidant supplementation in endurance athletes," Am J Clin Nutr, 1997;65:1052-6.