As you’re clanging away on those weights or huffin it out on the trail, your body is producing a swarm of destructive little by products. We all know them well, they go by the name of free-radicals. They are harmful to your DNA, they can disrupt cell membranes, they contribute to aging on virtually all levels. So we should make every effort to mitigate their effects or better still neutralize them right on the spot, right? Maybe, maybe not.
There is a new theory in the health circles, one that states that you should not attempt to stop the free radical production attributed to exercise because this may be one of the underlying mechanisms behind the beneficial gains associated with working out. The theory does make a bit of sense when you consider that exercise itself is a destructive event for the muscles and supportive tissue. It’s all part of Mother Natures plan – it receives the stimulus in the form of hard challenging exertion, and then overcompensates in rebuilding after the ordeal. We can see that the hormonal response and the “micro- tears” that must be repaired set the stage for this. So it goes by the same token (again maybe) that the damage from free radicals may be required for this process. There are even a few studies that back this up.
In the July 22 edition of the Journal of Physiology, a small study was published showing that 250 mg of resveratrol administered immediately after workouts diminished the cardiovascular improvements compared to a control group. There were no beneficial gains in blood pressure, lipid profile and other factors. Resveratrol is one of the cutting edge supplements particularly in the arena of anti-aging so this came as quite a surprise.
Another study published a few years back in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences also questioned the benefit of antioxidants post workout. They showed that high Vitamin C and E administered following exercise can blunt the beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity. Though these studies are limited they may be making a point.
Again this comes back to the implication that free radical control might shut down one of the pathways to improvement. It makes a good case, at least logically. Other so-called negatives of working out such as the creation of lactic acid and the formation of “bad” Prostaglandin F2 are believed to be some of the strongest stimulators of improvement. In the same way the body responds to the heightened level of reactive species by producing more of it’s own critical antioxidant enzymes like SOD (superoxide dismutase).
I guess that until more research comes out we should concentrate upon natural dietary replenishment after our training: Have that whey shake, add some carbs and mineral rich fruits like bananas and oranges. This is tried and true and a sure way to getting the most out of your workout.