I've been wanting to write something about this for a while but haven't quiet had the time. It's a topic I want to delve into more completely, but for now this short review will have to do.
Antioxidants are everywhere. They are being portrayed almost as a super cure. Are they good things? Yes. But once again we underestimate our body.
The villain in this battle is Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), or as called in the press, free radicals. These ROS are the enemies. All sorts of claims have been made about how bad these things are and a whole industry has arisen around the good guys, antioxidants, which get rid of the ROS. Some have gone so far as to warn about the effects of intense aerobic exercise because it increases ROS. Once again, we have a situation where we initially overemphasize and overeact to a discovery.
Recently, more and more research has come down the line that show that ROS aren't necessarily as bad as we initially thought. FOr a good, but complex, summary of the findings, read this journal article:
Combining the findings that ROS are stimuli for signalling pathways for adaptations with what I talked about last blog, that glycogen depletion is a stimuli, you have to wonder about some of our accepted nutrition practices.
Should we be trying to minimize glycogen depletion/ROS with nutrition during or right after a workout? I don't know the answer, and it is certainly a complex one, but in certain situations I'd say don't. I've already talked about glycogen depletion, but how many times do you see people taking antioxidants right after a workout or even a mixed drink with antioxidants during. Could this have some sort of impact on the signalling pathway? Definately, but how much and what exactly is unknown at this time. My general recomendation for antioxidants would probably be to not take any during training and probably not immediately after a workout. A short time post workout might aid in recovery once the signalling is under way. (Quick Note: I'm talking about large doses such as a Vitamin C supplement, not those found in natural foods such as fruit.)
This goes further than just glycogen depletion and ROS. Remember that some sort of damage or buildup is often the stimulus that leads to adaptation. Another example is that muscle tearing is huge in hypertrophy. The key thing to take away is to remember what your stimulus is for the workout and what you are trying to accomplish. Often times, fatigue or its by products are the keys to subsequent adaptation. Minimize them in a race. But maybe not in practice.