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Exercise & the Antioxidant Network


"The Interplay Between Exercise and Nutrition on Inducing Synergism in the Body's Antioxidant Network" was way too long of a title.

We all know that exercising increases free radicals via oxidation. Fortunately (from what little I know) exercise also increases enzymatic efficiencies in the body's antioxidant network [catalase, superoxide dismutase, glutathione reductase and glutathione peroxidase]. Combining these enzymatic synergies with non-enzymatic specific factors [hydrophilic and lipophilic antioxidants through a healthy antioxidant-rich diet ], an athlete can experience a synergy to combat the free radicals. **FYI this has both a health and performance enhancement aspect to it.

I was wondering if anyone is aware of specific programs that are intended to investigate the efficiences that can be acheived through a targeted diet and exercise approach for the purpose of maximizing antioxidant protection. Obviously superfood combined with a good program is a decent answer for starters, but I'm talking more specifics. Thanks.



Okay for starters,

"...There is strong evidence that one of the adaptations resulting from exercise is a strengthening of the body's antioxidant defenses, particularly the glutathione system, to regulate the increased oxidative stress." (1)

"...Endurance training strengthened GSH (Gluathione)dependent tissue antioxidant defenses in most studies. Although studies investigating the effect of sprint training are few, current results show that sprint training may also have a beneficial effect on tissue GSH homeostasis...

"N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) and -lipoic acid (LA) are two antioxidant dietary supplements that are able to enhance cellular GSH levels. Because LA can be recycled to its potent dithiol form, dihydrolipoate, by enzymes present in the human cell it has a clear advantage over NAC. Recently an improved form of LA, a positively charged analogue (LA-Plus), has been discovered. LA-Plus has more potent immuno-modulatory activity compared to LA. Both LA and NAC have been shown to have beneficial effects in protecting tissue GSH homeostasis against exercise induced oxidative stress.
" (2)

(1) Leeuwenburgh C, Fiebig R, Chandwaney R, Ji L (1994). "Aging and exercise training in skeletal muscle: responses of glutathione and antioxidant enzyme systems".

(2)Sen, Chandan, "Glutathione homeostasis in response to exercise training and nutritional supplements" http://www.springerlink.com/content/g212057163n5wq18/

key words ALA, alpha lipoic acid, Super Food, Superfood Freeze-Dried Super
Concentrated Extracts, healthy training, health, CoQ10, Quercetin, phytochemical, anthocyanin, green tea, egcg, resveratrol


I'd like to add BBB's "energy 'rejuvenation' protocol" originally posted in the "Energy and Dealing With Fatigue" thread (link below).

Although he comments that "

," there is a direct relationship between antioxidants and mitochondrial rejuvenation, ala "Quercetin Increases Brain and Muscle Mitochondrial Biogenesis and Exercise Tolerance" which shows an in vivo effect (link - http://www.frs.com/science/MitochondriaScientificStudy.pdf ).



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Well BBB, I'm not sure. Phytochemicals are not entriely understood on their mechanisms, at least not entirely by me. I intended this thread to be like a review of the literature out there to try and draw some conclusions about how to best take advantage of a complex area that few focus on. That's the purpose.

Although I can't answer your question (maybe I can with further research), here is some further very interesting research applicable to my quercetin post and really it's applicable to all antioxidants including phytochemicals:

"...the potential toxicity of metabolites formed during the actual antioxidant activity of free radical scavengers should be considered in antioxidant supplementation."

"...Free radical scavenging antioxidants, such as quercetin, are chemically converted into oxidation products when they protect against free radicals. The main oxidation product of quercetin, however, displays a high reactivity towards thiols, which can lead to the loss of protein function. The quercetin paradox is that in the process of offering protection, quercetin is converted into a potential toxic product."

"...It was found that quercetin efficiently protects against [exercise induced oxidative stress], but this damage is swapped for a reduction in Glutathione level."


Obviously this is where the ALA comes into play. Although this research is great, it only hits the tip of the iceberg in regard to understanding the interactions that antioxidants have with one another in our bodies.


Check the work by Dr. Richard Bloomer. He has done exercise and supplement studies on RONS and is actually a lifter. Very good researcher.


Cool. Thanks bschllng. I will check him out.

Do you mean he did research on ROS? Can you clarify what RONS is? Thanks.


"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." Hippocrates
Perhaps the best advice was given long before our time.

There is evidence of superior effects when antioxidants and used in conjunction, so perhaps the research that bschllng referred to can give us some indication of these combinations for the athlete. The following is research on the synergies achieved through combinations of antioxidants.

"...combination of quercetin or catechins plus α-tocopherol showed synergistic effects" http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/118832437/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0
"...The emerging picture of synergisms and interactions suggests that antioxidant protection may be more flexible and efficient than indicated by studies of single nutrient effects. The apparent versatility of the oxidant defense system implies that it is capable of taking advantage of diverse antioxidants provided by the diet, as well as excesses of a particular antioxidant nutrient." http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6TB1-3Y5MNXC-3M&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=bdf03cf5f5285fe4eac045a5b0f15225

I think these studies suggest that a) antioxidants work synergistically, and that b) the human body is vastly complex and is able to deal with varying amounts of antioxidants provided to it (including excess - but I believe excess fat soluble antioxidants like Vit.s A&E can be dangerous in excess and should be taken with caution).

If a balanced diet really the best way to health, what then is the definition of balanced? Will the definition of balanced diet ever be written to such a degree that a doctor can prescribe a patient's exact diet/supplement regime to capitalize on antioxidant interaction? This is foreseeable but is long from happening due to a) the misguided perception that medical school imparts on doctors in regards to supplements, and b) the disjointed scientific studies on subject.

And what is the cause of action through which antioxidants impart their positive impact on health? The study that follows questions if antioxidants even prevent oxygen related cell damage.

A study on the laundry list of antioxidants listed below propose that the mechanism through which the following list of antioxidants work (to prevent disease) is via molecular target modulation. The study concluded that "this work reaffirms what Hippocrates said 25 centuries ago, let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."

This study above is in a growing field. The study of molecular target modulation is the forefront of the medical field. Companies such as Limerick BioPharma http://www.limerickbio.com/ in South San Francisco, CA is a great example of a company on the cutting edge in the industry. But sadly they and others have only begun the process of figuring it all out. Due to the scientific community's slow progress in the field and the general attitude in the medical community to drag their feet when it comes to supplements, I feel that we are responsible for our own health as Hippocrates implied.


Here's some research that implicates the importance of sleep's importance in the antioxidant network.

"The Oxidant/Antioxidant Network: Role of Melatonin"

Abstract: "Melatonin is now known to be a multifaceted free radical scavenger and antioxidant. It detoxifies a variety of free radicals and reactive oxygen intermediates including the hydroxyl radical, peroxynitrite anion, singlet oxygen and nitric oxide. Additionally, it reportedly stimulates several antioxidative enzymes including glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase and superoxide dismutase; conversely, it inhibits a prooxidative enzyme, nitric oxide synthase. Melatonin also crosses all morphophysiological barriers, e.g., the blood-brain barrier, placenta, and distributes throughout the cell; these features increase the efficacy of melatonin as an antioxidant. Melatonin has been shown to markedly protect both membrane lipids and nuclear DNA from oxidative damage. In every experimental model in which melatonin has been tested, it has been found to resist macromolecular damage and the associated dysfunction associated with free radicals."


The take home message is that getting a good night's sleep is very important in regards to overall health. We all should know that the stress that has been placed on the importance of sleep for recovery is valid. Exercise increases free radicals in muscle, while melatonin supports the removal of the free radicals.

I'm not sure if there is research which states that supplemental melatonin is beneficial, however I know that Dr. Jonny Bowden supports its use.


...This research supports that exercise training results in an elevated antioxidant enzymes [both superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase] along with increased cellular concentrations of glutathione in skeletal muscles. It seems plausible that increased cellular concentrations of these antioxidants will reduce the risk of cellular injury, improve performance, and delay muscle fatigue.(1)

...However, further research indicates that "...The "weekend athlete" may not have the augmented antioxidant defense system produced through continued training. This may make them more susceptible to oxidative stress."(2)

Regular exercise appears to be the key. While the definition of "regular exercise" is not clear, I would venture to guess that a minimum of 2-3 hours of combined weight and cardio training spread over several training sessions (no less than 4 sessions) would fit the bill.

I would further venture a guess that a study could be conducted to show that 2 sessions per day lasting >15-20 minutes each (distance by 4+ hours) would yield maximal elevations in antioxidant enzymes cellular concentrations of glutathione in skeletal muscles. The regularity of the workouts is the mode I suspect would elicit the response. The short duration is merely a means to an end (i.e. an athlete likely wouldn't have time or physical capacity to perform 2 hour long sessions every day - keep in mind this exercise is not intended to be inclusive of the athletes normal sports training, i.e. acquisition of skills). Although the degree of strenuousness of each bout of exercise could induce oxidative stress, due to the design of the program such physical activity could also contribute to an enhanced antioxidant defense potential and possibly reduce the oxidative stress.

(1)"Exercise training-induced alterations in skeletal muscle antioxidant capacity: a brief review"

"Exercise training-induced alterations in skeletal muscle antioxidant capacity: a brief review. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 31, No. 7, pp. 987-997, 1999. Cellular oxidants include a variety of reactive oxygen, nitrogen, and chlorinating species. It is well established that the increase in metabolic rate in skeletal muscle during contractile activity results in an increased production of oxidants. Failure to remove these oxidants during exercise can result in significant oxidative damage of cellular biomolecules. Fortunately, regular endurance exercise results in adaptations in the skeletal muscle antioxidant capacity, which protects myocytes against the deleterious effects of oxidants and prevents extensive cellular damage. This review discusses the effects of chronic exercise on the up-regulation of both antioxidant enzymes and the glutathione antioxidant defense system. Primary antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, and catalase will be discussed as well as glutathione, which is an important nonenzymatic antioxidant. Growing evidence indicates that exercise training results in an elevation in the activities of both superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase along with increased cellular concentrations of glutathione in skeletal muscles. It seems plausible that increased cellular concentrations of these antioxidants will reduce the risk of cellular injury, improve performance, and delay muscle fatigue."


(2) "Antioxidants and physical performance"

Abstract: "Performance of strenuous physical activity can increase oxygen consumption by 10- to 15-fold over rest to meet energy demands. The resulting elevated oxygen consumption produces an "oxidative stress" that leads to the generation of free radicals and lipid peroxidation. A defense system of free radical scavengers minimizes these dangerous radicals. Indirect measurements of free radicals generated during exercise include assessing products of lipid peroxidation that appear in the blood (e.g., malondialdehyde and conjugated dienes) or expired in the breath (pentane). Changes in antioxidant scavengers and associated enzymes (e.g., glutathione, tocopherol, glutathione peroxidase) also provide clues about demands on the defense system. Physical training has been shown to result in an augmented antioxidant system and a reduction in lipid peroxidation. Supplementation with antioxidants appears to reduce lipid peroxidation but has not been shown to enhance exercise performance. The "weekend athlete" may not have the augmented antioxidant defense system produced through continued training. This may make them more susceptible to oxidative stress. Whether athletes or recreational exercisers should take antioxidant supplements remains controversial. However, it is important that those who exercise regularly or occasionally ingest foods rich in antioxidants."



Here's an interesting article I came across today:

Vitamin supplements may cut benefits of exercise

'Free radicals aren't always the bad guys. It even seems that popping antioxidants to mop them up might reduce some of the beneficial effects of exercise.

Free radicals have long been thought to contribute to the ageing process, which is one reason why people take antioxidant supplements such as vitamin C or E.

However, other studies have hinted that taking antioxidants may hasten death through an unknown mechanism. One possibility is that they interfere with the beneficial effects of exercise, as there are hints that free radicals might be used by the body to prevent cellular damage after exercise.


Exercise is well known to have a beneficial effect on insulin resistance â?? a precursor condition to type 2 diabetes. However, when Ristow's team measured the effects of exercise on insulin sensitivity, they found no increase in those volunteers taking antioxidants, but a significant increase in those who didn't take the supplements."


Very interesting stuff. In the past few years, I have been cautious about taking multi vitamins, or mega doses of any one vitamin. I think no matter the amount of research, we will always come back to "let food be thy medicine."

Another interesting related article, if you click the link in the first sentence in the article "popping antioxidants to mop them up," it takes you to this article:


The article points out those studies on single antioxidants (including Vit. C, A, and E) have shown at best little to no benefit and even harm in some instances. Now I don't want to start some hysteria against antioxidants, but the article is very convincing that the benefits of supplemental antioxidants are not a given.

From the article, "the conclusion is becoming clear: whatever is behind the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, you cannot reproduce it by taking purified extracts or vitamin supplements. Just because a food with a certain compound in it is beneficial, it does not mean a nutraceutical [with the same compound in] is... People eating diets abundant in vitamin C, vitamin E, polyphenols and carotenoids (from food) are less likely to suffer heart attacks, vascular disease, diabetes and cancer."

Several possible explanations are theorized in the article:
1) people who eat diets rich in vitamins have a generally healthier lifestyle (exercise more and smoke less)
2) polyphenols, carotenoids and vitamins in fruit and vegetables are bound into tough, fibrous material, they hang around in the stomach and colon, where they can neutralise free radicals. The gastrointestinal tract, especially the stomach with its highly acidic environment, is constantly generating reactive oxygen species from food. Supplements may not replicate this effect because they are digested too quickly.
3) Nutrients work in concert with each other (suggesting that an extracted nutrient will not work in megadoses, or out of context of the other nutrients in the food).
4) The more intriguing explanation: Whole foods with antioxidants in them also contain oxidants. There is the possibility that the oxidants can help nudge our own internal antioxidant systems into action. For example: "Among the leading sources of dietary antioxidants are tea and coffee, and there is some evidence that green tea in particular is linked with health benefits including reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Oddly, though, Halliwell has discovered that tea and coffee are also bursting with reactive oxygen species in the form of hydrogen peroxide (because antioxidants are present with oxidants in nature - oxygen is all around us and is unavoidable)."

The article concludes with: "For now, the advice is simple. "Stick to flavonoid-rich foods, red wine in moderation, tea, fruits and vegetables," says Halliwell. "Don't start taking high-dose supplements or heavily fortified foods, until we know more."

I think the first 3 theories hypothesized have some if not a considerable amount of weight. The fourth theory is pretty interesting, and I'm not sure if it does or does not hold weight. I'd be curious to know if it is a valid theory, and if so which supplements would still fit the bill. For instance, would a green tea extract be okay?

After reading this article I want to still further investigate the interactions of antioxidants. I wonder now if supplemental antioxidants are effective whatsoever, but still I want to research the interactions among antioxidants to understand how synergies can be achieved through other means, i.e. can maximum benefit be reached through combining a certain mixture of fruit/vegetable/&herbs.

Though the research brought extracted antioxidants into question, it did not bring into question a supplement like Superfood, which would seem to address theory #3 above (Nutrients work in concert with each other).

Under the four theories above, Superfood looks like a great product in all but theory #2 (antioxidants are bound into tough, fibrous material) because it is digested too quickly. I'll attempt to find some additional research on this and propose whether an enteric coated Superfood tablet would provide significant improvement in efficacy.

I wonder though, if tea is known to reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, then would its benefits be increased via bypassing the stomach (enteric coated tablets), or is theory #2 not valid?


Thanks to worzel for finding and posting the study "Research Examines Adverse Effects of Antioxidants" (http://www.uni-jena.de/PM090511_Antioxidants-lang-en.html) in the thread "Antioxidants & Insulin Sensitivity" at http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/diet_performance_nutrition_supplements/antioxidants_insulin_sensitivity?pageNo=0

According to this study, "the health-promoting effects of exercise require the formation of oxi-dative stress during sports and if this is blocked, some of these effects do not occur. In the particular study, the intake of antioxidants during a four-week exercise training class abolished the effects of exercise to improve insulin sen-si-tivity and glucose metabolism."

The study's author points out that "Exercise causes repeated boosts of free radicals, which - according to our results - induce a health-promoting adaptive response in humans. Subsequently, our body activates molecular defense systems against stress, and metabolizes carbohydrates more efficiently, both of which prevents diabetes, and possibly other diseases. Blocking these boosts of free radicals by antioxidants accordingly blocks the health promoting effects of ex-ercise." He further says that "short-term doses of free radicals may act like a vaccine, helping the body to defend itself from chronic stressors more efficiently by inducing a long-term adaptive response".


Based on the study above I'm starting to think that the best idea is definitely not to take supplemental vitamin A, C, or E peri workout. The same probably, but not for sure, applies for polyphenolic compounds as well.

I propose the following: 5 or 6 days per week of 2 weight training sessions per day lasting 15-20 minutes each (distanced by 4+ hours) and immediately followed by 15-20 minutes of moderate cadio would provide maximal benefits. The post strength training cardio is suggested based on research that finds that resistance training stiffens arteries, whereas if you perform cario directly after the weight training session, there is no reduction in arterial compliance. I can't find it, but it was a hot study from a couple of years ago. It might be this one, http://journals.lww.com/jhypertension/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2006&issue=09000&article=00013&type=abstract but the abstract does not specify that cardio should be performed directly after the resistance training. It could be the study though.

Sounds like a pain in the ass, but this site is the "intelligent and relentless pursuit of muscle," right?

I'm sure there's a ton or research on the benefits of multiple short term bouts of exercise... Let me google that for you (www.LMGTFY.com), haha.


Or just do some rowing, which is a unique combo of strength and endurance:

"Our results suggest that simultaneously performed endurance training may negate the stiffening effects of strength training."


Something that is often not mentioned in studies is the form of vitamin or mineral used. There are different forms of Vitamin C, E, etc., all of which have different effects on the body.


I'm not sure this would work. It's hard to ascertain the persistence of antioxidants in the body - wouldn't you think Vitamin E would last a "long" time (particularly against a water soluble vitamin like vitamin C)?

I'm thinking that if you have a longer-lasting antioxidant, take it at night and sleep it off. If you are solid the antioxidant you're taking (vitamin C) is water-soluble - then not within 3 hours of a workout. But I'm not sure about that as an optimal protocol.

I think I'm just going to decrease my consumption of them...but so many are so interesting, with different activities, from astaxanthin to curcumin...


Decreasing your supplemental consumption would probably be a good call until we know more. Go ahead and try to eat more food sources of antioxidants by all means though. Don't take this data to mean that foods that are anioxidant rich are labaled as bad for you. If a person has a particular health concern that causes them to take a specific antioxidant, then for that case I would think it's best to not avoid the supplement for that purpose (like cancer reoccurence), but if you have no reason to take an extracted potent form of [X - the mother loving master of all antioxidants], then why not just not take them and or rely on getting them from your food?

Your questions about curcumin bring me back to the gene expression modulation point I was making above... which is that antioxidant compounds work in ways, other than just free radical scavengers, that we are just starting to grasp.


Perhaps not all antioxidants have a detrimnetal effect on exercise induced protein oxidation. In that study polyphenolic compounds were used.



Protandim is a patented dietary supplement that allegedly increases the bodyâ??s antioxidant defenses. I'm too tired to address this topic or analyze the research behind it, but it looks promising. Heck maybe they'll put it in Anaconda :wink: