Every versed athlete knows their macronutrient intake can have a tremendous impact on their performance at the gym, muscle protein synthesis that happens afterwards, and their body’s ability to recuperate in time for the next grueling workout. However, few eager gym goers ever look beyond the food scale when it comes to optimizing their nutrition, so they miss out on using micronutrients to make the most of their diet in the service of exercise. One particular group of compounds found in different foods has recently earned plenty of attention due to its potential to help the recovery process: antioxidants.
Often mentioned in studies and articles that deal with the immune system, these compounds have been found to have a powerful impact on increasing our resilience to negative metabolic processes, including oxidation – hence the name anti-oxidants. Now, before we get lost in the chemistry of it all, let’s take a closer look at the role of these helpful compounds in helping your body stay strong and recover with ease!
First off, let’s make sure we’re on the same page. Inflammation on its own is not the enemy, not for any bodybuilder, runner, or any average individual in general. It’s a natural response of your system to different causes, and it’s there for a myriad of protective reasons that helps your body stay in good shape. However, when inflammation turns into a chronic issue and is out of your control, then your body slowly suffers the damage of this otherwise natural process.
In essence, acute inflammation (the temporary kind) helps your body grow muscle, but chronic inflammation hinders testosterone production and muscle growth. Too much of the good thing can hinder your results and your recovery. To help curb that, antioxidants are key in reducing body-wide inflammation though nutritious food, hence the need to consume plenty of antioxidant-rich foods for optimal recovery results.
A strong cardiovascular system
Every chemical compound in our body, antioxidants included, have their own very specific and specialized role in a range of metabolic reactions. From helping deliver the right nutrients to your cells, helping repair muscle tissue, all the way to protecting you from the harmful effects of free radicals (molecules that cause damage to cells and cause numerous diseases), various antioxidants perform different roles.
No matter the type of training you perform, your heart is your most important muscle to protect for the sake of health, performance, as well as recovery. To that end, heart-friendly antioxidants such as coenzyme Q10 serve as an excellent addition to your eating regime so as to protect your cardiovascular wellbeing. This particular enzyme is found in fatty fish such as salmon, organ meats such as liver, and veggies such as spinach and broccoli, although it can be consumed as a supplement as well.
Balancing free radical impact
We have already covered the relevance and impact of inflammation on your body, and the key difference between its positive and negative effects. The very same principle applies to free radicals. The notorious free radicals can cause cellular damage, but when it comes to training and growing new muscle tissue, which is what happens during recovery, those free radicals actually have a useful role in the process. They serve as beacons to signal your muscles that they need to adapt to your training in order to improve performance.
As a result, you need a balance of those free radicals and antioxidants in your system, so that one doesn’t “override” the other in their incredibly useful roles for recovery and muscle growth. Consuming foods with plenty of antioxidants such as vitamin C helps your body moderate the stress of your workout, so that your muscles don’t get overly strained through exercise or negatively affected by free radicals. That’s why we all need those “five a day” of veggies and fruits to keep those antioxidants working to protect our body for excessive exhaustion.
Producing ample energy every day
In addition to their protective properties, antioxidants are vital for energy production on a daily basis. Calories are our main source of energy, and we consume them through food and supplements, hence the need to tailor our nutrition for optimal energy intake, and to make sure we can recover fast and well enough to tackle the next training. This is where diversity in nutrition allows you to strike that fine balance of eating plenty of different antioxidants that perform this energy-boosting function.
As an excellent example, delicious cacao is a great source of antioxidants that elevate your energy levels, boost your mood through those “feel good” hormones, and provides a wealth of minerals that are generally good for your body. So, instead of reaching for fast-releasing sugar-packed snacks, introducing antioxidant-loaded healthy ones is a better solution to managing your energy after your workout and providing your body everything you need to recover efficiently.
Make sure to include these tips into your eating regime, and you will give yourself the right tools to help better your recovery and reach your fitness goals faster while safeguarding your health and resilience.