What benefits do antioxidants offer bodybuilders?


Antioxidants are a group of compounds that “fight” free radicals, which are harmful to the immune system and other physiological functions. Several different substances are grouped together and categorized as antioxidants. Some of the most well known include beta carotene (closely related to vitamin A), vitamin C and vitamin E. In addition, several minerals, including copper, magnesium, selenium and zinc, also function in an antioxidant role. Many bodybuilders use antioxidants for their potential to enhance recovery from training or other athletic endeavors.

These compounds counteract free radicals, which are byproducts of aerobic energy metabolism. Free radicals are formed when elements such as oxygen and nitrogen interact with other molecules and try to bind to constituents located in the membrane of cells, damaging the membrane.

Several recent research studies have shown that antioxidants can reduce exerciseinduced oxidative stress and can also enhance recovery between workouts. One common theory states that muscle growth occurs during the recovery phase following muscle fiber damage induced during prior exercise. Antioxidants can boost recovery in several ways. First, they bind with and deactivate free radicals produced during exercise before they can cause damage to muscle cells. Second, they strengthen and protect muscle cell membranes against free-radical damage. 

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Third, they repair disruptions in muscle cell membranes caused by free radicals.

"Pick intensely colored fruits and vegetables if you’re concentrating on antioxidants."

So, how much of what kinds of foods will produce these amazing damagefighting benefits? The latest research suggests that five servings of fruits and vegetables a day are sufficient. However, this is geared toward normal-sized individuals. There is no research available to indicate sufficient intake for a 250- pound bodybuilder who works out two hours a day six days a week and has 8% bodyfat. To make certain your bases are covered, FLEX recommends doubling the above natural-source recommendations and taking a supplemental form of at least vitamin E (400-800 international units) and vitamin C (500-1,000 milligrams).


You can find antioxidants in supplement form, but if you want to get some pleasure out of ingesting these little “miracle workers,” try adding these foods to your diet. Remember, typically the greatest concentrations of antioxidants are found in intensely colored fruits and vegetables.

BETA CAROTENE: carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, peppers, broccoli, spinach, mangos, papaya, apricots, cantaloupes, tomatoes and assorted greens (especially kale and collard, turnip and beet greens)

VITAMIN C: citrus fruits and juices, cantaloupe, berries, cabbage, tomatoes and peppers

VITAMIN E: seafood, fish and vegetable oils, nuts and seeds

COPPER: shellfish, whole grains, legumes and nuts

MAGNESIUM: whole grains, legumes and green leafy vegetables

SELENIUM: seafood, red meat and whole grains

ZINC: beef, dark poultry meat, whole grains and oysters