Antioxidants for Combat Athletes
Antioxidants and Free Radicals
Everyone knows that oxygen is essential for all life - the body uses it as it breaks down food and creates energy for cells. Whilst taking part in any sporting activity Oxygen is needed in an increasing amount in order to supply the blood and energy to the cells so that work can be performed. This requirement is increased exponentially whilst undertaking Combat or Martial Arts training such as Muay Thai, Boxing or MMA. But did you know that, as well as oxygen being an absolute necessity for life and good health, its use in the body can also result in the production of certain unwanted by-products, called oxidants (think of these as being similar to the ash that is left behind by fire).
These ash-like particles are more commonly known as free radicals – they are unstable molecules that can damage DNA and cell structure. They cause harm within the body because they are constantly trying to stabilise by attempting to 'steal' electrons from nearby molecules. This, in turn, damages those molecules and makes them unstable too, causing them to also seek out other electrons. And so, a vicious circle is created, the damage caused and amount of these free radicals and oxidants is increased massively when undertaking extreme physical exercise such as Martial Arts, Muay Thai, Boxing or MMA.
Free Radicals and Oxidants
Free radicals are produced as a result of both internal (endogenous) and external (exogenous) factors. Endogenous free radicals are produced as a result of normal biological processes, like aerobic respiration (breathing), metabolism (creating and using energy obtained from foods) and inflammation (the bodies defence against infection, stress or damage). In contrast, exogenous free radicals are produced as a result of environmental factors. For example, pollution, sunlight, stress, UV rays, poor diet, alcohol intake, smoking, strenuous exercise and X-rays.
Unfortunately, in this modern age of pollutants and toxins, both in the environment and in our food chain, levels of free radicals in our bodies are higher than ever before. It is impossible to avoid damage from free radicals, and our body's own defences against it are not foolproof and under even further load as a result of taking part in contatc sports and fighting activity. When our levels of free radicals exceed the protective capabilities of those defences, what is referred to as "oxidative stress" occurs this is similar to ‘rusting’ of metals which occurs when metals ‘oxidise’ as a result of exposure to the environment. This means that the bodies system is no longer able to cope by readily detoxifying or repairing the resulting damage. As time goes on, cell parts damaged by oxidation accumulate, contributing to toxic load, ageing and overworking an already strained and compromised immune system resulting in increasingly impaired performance and subsequently illness.
Our natural defences
The human body is pretty amazing and, for the most part, its complex processes run smoothly. However, like everything else, it eventually comes under strain and can even break down, especially as we age, and physical ailments can start to crop up. This is more apparent when under great stress such as that induced by partaking in heavy physical work, exercise and extreme sports such as Full Contact Martial Arts and Boxing.
The solution to this over abundance of accumulated waste, oxidants and free radicals is to provide our body with as much nutritional support as we can, so that it can fuel its own natural defences.
The body's primary defence against free radical damage is antioxidants – these are predominately naturally occurring substances found in foods and water that help counteract the damaging effects of oxidation in bodily tissue.
Antioxidants are nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, polyphenols and other phyto-chemicals), as well as enzymes (proteins in the body that assist in chemical reactions). While it is not entirely clear how antioxidants work, their most important characteristic in terms of supporting the body against free radicals is that they are stable within the body with or without the extra electron, so they can help to stop the chain reaction referred to above by binding with the dangerous oxidants and free radicals at a molecular level and eliminating the resultant compound from the body through the natural waste systems.
Antioxidants are present in many natural, whole foods (such as fruit and vegetables). In many cases, it is possible to identify antioxidant-rich sources through their distinctively bright colours. For instance, the deep red of cherries; the deep purple of beetroot; the bright orange of carrots; the yellow of turmeric; and the blue-purple of blueberries, blackberries and grapes. Vitamin C and vitamin E are two of the most potent antioxidants found in nature, present in high levels in foods such as parsley, rosehips, elderberries, blackcurrants, citrus fruits, broccoli, nuts and whole grains (oatmeal, rye, barley). Certain ‘good’ fats also contain a number of beneficial anti-oxidants.
Foods that have exceptionally high levels of antioxidants are often referred to as "superfoods" or "superfruits", for that reason. For example, green tea, acai berries and wheatgrass.
Supporting your antioxidant levels
Our bodies produce metabolic enzymes and various hormones that are extremely effective antioxidants and in removing left over by products of energy use. However the body's ability to produce these enzymes and hormones drops significantly in our late twenties, when under the stress of extreme exercise or whilst partaking in full contact competition such as those associated with Muay Thai, MMA OR Boxing bouts. Similarly, if your lifestyle is conducive to high levels of free radical production, i.e stress, overtraining, lack of sleep, weight cutting for competition etc then it is a good idea to support and boost your antioxidant levels through external (dietary) sources in order to achieve a balance between the extra demand from the various activities and those anti-oxidants that are produced naturally.
Eating a balanced diet, rich in a variety of seasonal (preferably organic) fruits, vegetables, green leafy plants and whole grains, is one of the best ways to support your body's antioxidant levels. (The amounts required are increased dependant upon the loads or work the body is required to undertake). If you feel that you need additional support, a more concentrated intake, or a more convenient and reliable source then our food-based antioxidant supplements can be the perfect solution. These concentrated formulae are present in a range of our products and super foods and studies have shown these to be beneficial in some humans who are under great stress from lifestyle factors and those arising from partaking in extreley vigourous athletic activity such as Muay Thai, MMA, Boxing or other contact Martial Art.
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