What do antioxidants and a bike helmet have in common?
Well, if you’re like a friend of mine, both play a huge role in limiting the damage from exercise!
Additionally, antioxidants provide nutritional support for your fat loss efforts. But first:
What are antioxidants?
A friend of mine recently flew off of his bike and face planted on the concrete (with no helmet on – ouch). His unfortunate tumble provides a perfect metaphor for free radical damage:
Free radicals are like my friend on his runaway bike, on a collision course with whatever chance molecule that happens to get in their way. When my friend hit the pavement, his body had to absorb the massive amount of kinetic energy – resulting in considerable damage to his face, arms, and hands.
The same thing happens when free radicals “collide” with molecules in your body. Free radicals damage molecules by combining with them, changing otherwise healthy molecules into instable versions of themselves.
Left unchecked, free radical damage causes a host of undesirable effects in your body, from accelerated aging to cancer.
Obviously, free radicals are scoundrels that need serious corralling. But where’s the sheriff?
Enter the mighty antioxidant. Antioxidants neutralize free radical activity by combining with them, and like fire and water, the two cancel each other out.
There are many different antioxidants, all with uniquely compelling names, like glutathione, lycopene, and superoxide dismutase. Luckily, you don’t need to remember any of them to ensure you get plenty in your diet.
The best ways you can combat free radical damage and boost your antioxidant intake are:
It’s no small coincidence that the foods with the highest antioxidant concentrations happen to be the same foods that best support fat burning. By maxing your antioxidant intake, you can kill two birds with one stone.
Berries – contain polyphenols and bioflavonoids in massive quantities. In English, they contain high levels of antioxidants, are low-sugar, and high fiber. In short, a nutritional winner and a must-have in your fat loss program.
Meat – contains Vitamin E, selenium, and glutathione (well, to be perfectly accurate, your body synthesizes glutathione from the BCAAs in meat). Meat – great for fat loss, antioxidant warehouse.
Cruciferous (leafy green) vegetables – contain carotenoids, glutathione, Vitamins A, C, and E, isothiocyanates, and whole lotta other stuff. Just eat your broccoli already.
Hmm. That list of foods to eat looks eerily familiar. I wonder where I’ve seen it before?
Here’s the unpleasant truth: exercise increases free radical production in your body. After all, you are introducing a major stressor (or you’re just not working out hard enough to produce changes).
What we’re chiefly concerned with here is limiting the damage from exercising. You can do that through time management in the gym; i.e., getting more done in less time.
Use this time-saving tip we wrote about to help shave time off your weight room visits, and make the most out of your cardio work by using intervals.
It’s not just healthier for you to exercise more efficiently; you’ll get better results from it as well.
To summarize: Maximize your workouts by getting the biggest bang for your buck.
Sometimes diet and exercise just aren’t enough. If you’re under attack from a lot of external stressors (like pollution, job stress, sleeplessness, etc.), then your body’s such a free radical party that you should consider taking an antioxidant supplement.
I’d like to offer a disclaimer here:
Antioxidants in their natural state are found in foods along with hundreds of other compounds, some of which act synergistically to increase antioxidant absorption (like Vitamin E and selenium, for example).
By taking these supplements in pill or powder form, you’re getting an isolated (and hence, less effective) dose of antioxidant goodness. If you can, eat it first. But, if you can’t get it solely through diet, then by all means, get it.
Ok, back to your regularly scheduled article…
Supplementation is a very personal thing, and is something that you should discuss with a healthcare professional, like your doctor. The ones with the best research behind them are Vitamins C and E, glutathione, selenium, CoQ10, and alpha lipoic acid.
In the rush to lose pounds and inches for this wedding and that premier, people have tried some truly insane regimens, and most of them stink (boiled cabbage soup for 7 days? I’d rather cut my head off to lose that 10 pounds).
Moreover, many popular fad diets are unbalanced and unhealthy, setting the stage for weight regain – and then some – when your body decides it’s had enough.
You’ve got to approach this fat loss thing intelligently, and with the long-term in mind. It’s no good if you lose 5 pounds this week only to gain back 7 next week (and deplete yourself of nutrients in the process).
To think that eating for fat loss was eating healthy, too. Will wonders never cease?