Are Free Radicals Running You Into The Ground?

Unless you’re taking the right supplements, you may want to slow your roll.

Last week I was struck by a losing argument with my know-it-all running partner, James. James was under the impression that running causes extra free radicals in our bodies that required antioxidant supplementation. Although I’ve always been a proponent of healthy dietary supplementationhorse-26655 to support my habit (running), this was something I couldn’t believe. I thought to myself, “after years of running, how was it possible that I’d never heard this before?” This was more than a little disconcerting to someone whose week is completely thrown off with a single missed run. So, as any proud, card carrying, anti-know-it-all would do, I dove into research and discovered to my horror … James was right.

The ugly secret nobody wants to talk about is that prolonged endurance exercise, such as running, introduces into our bodies large quantities of the harmful molecules we know and hate as “free radicals.”

Free radicals are like the human body’s equivalent to car engine exhaust fumes. The more gas a car uses to run harder and faster, the more exhaust fumes the car produces. Just like, the more we consume extra oxygen when running harder and longer, so too will we release more free radicals into our bodies.

The problem is that free radicals are highly unstable atomic structures that unbalance all of the other molecules they come into contact with. The inevitable result is oxidative damage to our cells and DNA; that is, pain, injuries, inflammation, physical limitations while running, weakened immune systems, as well as, potential significant health issues down the line.

In fact, Dr. David Neiman, the director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State in North Carolina, conducted a study to determine the effect of these free radicals and the oxidative damage they create in over 2,300 Los Angeles marathon runners. Dr. Neiman discovered that 13% of the runners either became ill right before a marathon or shortly thereafter the marathon; whereas, only 3% of the non-running control group became ill. And, runners that trained more than 60 miles per week were twice as likely to get sick as those who trained less than 20 miles per week. An additional study in Ulm, Germany had similar results where DNA damage from oxidative stress was significantly increased after sessions of intense exercise.

Enter: Antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralize or prevent these harmful effects by stabilizing the free radicals and rendering them harmless. Although our bodies naturally produce antioxidants, it’s simply impossible to reach optimal levels of antioxidants through food alone, says Dr. Lester Packard of the University of California Berkeley and one of the world’s foremost antioxidant research scientists. Dr. Packard states that over 70% of Americans will die prematurely from diseases caused by or compounded by deficiencies of antioxidants. To make matters worse, endurance athletes may require higher than normal amounts to counter this oxygen induced free radical overload.

Although an antioxidant supplement may be just what the doctor ordered, it’s not as easy as just taking an antioxidant. You have to take a diverse variety of antioxidants and you also have to make sure to take the correct amounts. That is, not all antioxidants reach every part of every cell. For example, vitamin E can only neutralize the free radicals in the “fatty” areas of the cell; vitamin C can only access the “watery” areas of the cell; and many antioxidants can’t cross the blood-brain barrier to reach our brains. And, it’s critical to not take too much of any one type since it’s been found that overloading any antioxidant may have the reverse effect of stimulating free radicals.

So, the question is, “what can I take to continue my “habit” unaltered?”

Introducing, Complete Runner’s Nutrition (affectionately known as CRN by its steadily growing following), a wellness minded all-in-one supplement that actually covers many of the bases for runners. CRN has a complete quality multivitamin that is specifically formulated just for runners (with no nausea). CRN also has a joint support blend made up of glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM, a blend to combat overuse inflammation, a B-complex for energy, and of course, a diverse and correct antioxidant blend. We were pleasantly surprised to come across this product since it addresses our main concerns, is made specifically for people who partake in running and there doesn’t seem to be anything else like it on the market.

At least now, when your know-it-all friends try to poo-poo our favorite sport, you’ll have some ammunition to stop them in their tracks.

Sources:

Clarkson, Priscilla M, Ph.D. (2000) “Antioxidants: What are They and What Role Do

They Play in Physical Activity and Health?” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 72, No. 2, 637S-646s.

“The Role of Antioxidant Vitamins and Enzymes in the Prevention of Exercise-induced Muscle Damage,” Sports Medicine, 1996; 21: 213-38

“Antioxidants: Role of Supplementation to Prevent Exercise-induced Oxidative Stress,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 25(2): 232-236, 1993, Feb.

Packard, Lester, et. al. (1999) “The Antioxidant Miracle,” Wiley; 1st edition,

Alessio, HM, et al. (1997) Exercise-induced oxidative stress before and after vitamin C supplementation. International Journal of Sports Nutrition, 7:1-9.

Gonzales M, Miranda, JR, Riordan HD. (2005) “Vitamin C as an Ergogenic Aid,” Journal 0f Orthomolecual Medicine, 20(2):100-102.

Ivy J, Partman R. (2004). “Nutrient Timing, The Future of Sports Nutrition.” Basic Health Publications, North Bergen, New Jersey. P. 59, 2004,

Nieman, D.C. (2001). “Does exercise alter immune function and respiratory infections?” Research Digest, (President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports) Series 3, No. 13.

Nieman, D.C., et. al. (2003). “Immune and oxidative changes during and following the Western States Endurance Run.” International Journal of Sports Medicine, 24:541-47.

Nieman, D.C., et. al. (1990). “Infectious episodes in runners before and after the Los Angeles Marathon.” Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 30(3):316-28.

Powers, Scott K & Jackson, Malcolm J.. “Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress: Cellular Mechanisms and Impact on Muscle Force Production.” 2008. 12 July 2010.
http://physrev.physiology.org/cgi/reprint/88/4/1243
http://physrev.physiology.org/content/88/4/1243.full.pdf+html

Knowlden, Adam. “Role of Anti-oxidant Supplementation in Response to Exercise Induced Oxidative Stress.” 12 July 2010
http://www.abcbodybuilding.com/freeradicals.pdf

Hamilton, Andrew. “Athletes & Antioxidants : A low antioxidant intake may harm athletes.” Med Sci Sports Exerc 2005; 37(1): 63-71. 13 July 2010.
http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/athletes-antioxidants.htm