Much is being studied about the increase in oxidative stress in high endurance athletes. During previous decades the goal of nutritional and hormonal sport supplementation was to achieve more strength and power. But this concept has greatly changed. As we learn more about the production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, our focus has shifted to supplement athletes in order to delay or prevent oxidative stress. This means that athletes can augment their physiological mechanisms in order to delay fatigue and improve recovery thus providing an advantage vs athletes that fatigue quicker.
As stated by Knet et al. "Most types of exercise are accompanied by an increase in oxygen uptake and an increase flow of electron through the electron transport chain". Basically this means that during exercise our cell's mitochondria (which is our cell's power plant), cannot handle the increase electron flow and superoxide free radicals are produced (O2⁻). Also other cells in the body responsible in managing exercise induced tissue injury produce reactive oxygen species (ROS).
Our body has several endogenous or inner mechanisms to counteract those free ROS. But with high endurance athletes, the production of ROS can overwhelm the system. This is why we need to supplement our athletes with dietary antioxidants. Some of them you may be familiar with like Vitamin E, CoQ10, Vitamin C and the β-carotene family. Others like Oligonol you may not know. Science keeps developing more potent and more bioavailable forms of antioxidants. And as our capacity to better evaluate athletes and their metabolic process as they train, we can supplement with very specific types and amounts of antioxidants that are specific to their training requirements.
But it’s not as simple as taking an antioxidant by itself. For example many controlled trials have shown how taking Zinc aids in the performance and absorption of Vitamin C. This is why a thorough nutritional evaluation should be done of every athlete in order to assess his or her complete nutritional requirements.
As much literature shows, regular exercise helps increase endogenous antioxidant enzymes. It when we transition from our basic day to day exercise an training to ultra-endurance training that our bodies show physiologic changes that are consistent with muscle damage, increase oxidation and physiologic alterations. Sports performance medicine and nutrition aim in understanding how to reduce that damage help the athlete progress to a higher level of training and competition.
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