Free radicals is a term heard often, but what are they? In the simplest terms- ‘they have the ability to damage cells and (are believed) to accelerate the progression of cancer, cardiovascular disease and age-related diseases.’ (The Free Dictionary).
There are many causes of free radicals, namely: intense/aggressive exercise, pollution, smoking and stress to name a few (Take the Magic Step). Looking at the specifics of exercise (as it is something that has been effecting me through the new training programme I have been doing with Eden) and the impact of free radicals, it is through the increase of oxygen, such molecules are increased (Schneider and de Oliveira, 2004). The effects of free radicals include; fatigue (Triathlete) and colds (Wedmd). Free radicals are not all bad though- our bodies naturally produce free radicals to kill bacteria and viruses (Take the Magic Step) but is generally not a problem because antioxidants, our body also naturally produces, combats these (Webmd).
So why do we feel rubbish when we start training?
Well, as highlighted, it is through exercise that there is an increase in oxygen which causes these free radicals and can make us feel so rubbish. It doesn’t mean stopping though. Far from it. In fact, regular exercise means our body makes adaptations to increase the antioxidant defences (like it does with the natural production of free radicals) (Take the Magic Step). So in the short term our immune systems are weaker but overall and in the long term, will have positive effects. But of course, as highlighted by Take the Magic Step, this is only through regular exercise and in fact ad hoc exercise can do more damage than good.
So we know that antioxidants are the way to go. But what are antioxidants? ‘They are chemicals that can reduce cell damage and have been found to reduce the growth of cancer cells’ (nhs.uk)- perfect companion for free radicals then! As highlighted, free radicals are produced through everyday, lifestyle factors so unless you can avoid pollution (almost impossible) and stress (for example) increasing your intake of antioxidants can only be a positive thing.
All that’s left is to know where can you find antioxidants! WebMD suggest the following 10 Super Foods to help improve your bodies immunities and other benefits, such as a greater intake of vitamins and minerals:
- Red, purple and blue grapes
- Red berries (e.g. raspberries and strawberries)
- Dark green veggies
- Sweet potatoes and orange vegetables
- Tea (mostly green tea)
- Whole grains
I highly recommend referring to the article to find out more about these Super Foods and the benefits you get from each as well as the specifics on the food item in question.
The moral? Ensure you exercise regularly instead of on an ad hoc basis and increase your intake of antioxidants to combat free radicals (whether you exercise of not!).
NHS: Do foods like blueberries, broccoli and beetroot prevent cancer?: http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/do-blueberries-broccoli-and-cabbage-prevent-cancer.aspx?CategoryID=96&SubCategoryID=227
Schneider, D, C. and de Oliveira, R, A., 2004. Oxygen free radicals and exercise: mechanisms of synthesis and adaptation to the physical training: http://www.scielo.br/pdf/rbme/v10n4/en_22047.pdf
Take the Magic Step: Nutrition: Free radicals- naughty or nice: http://www.takethemagicstep.com/coaching/beginners/nutrition/nutrition-free-radicals-naughty-or-nice/#exercise
The Free Dictionary: Free Radical: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/free+radical
Triathlete Europe: Fatigue and the muscle mind connection, 2013: http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2013/05/01/fatigue-and-the-muscle-mind-connection
Webmd: 10 Nutrient- rich Super Foods: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/10-super-foods
Webmd: How Antioxidants work: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/how-antioxidants-work1
Webmd: Starve a cold, feed a fever?: http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/starve-cold-feed-fever