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:

Click to access 12263_2009_Article_131.pdf

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.

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    1. Sean on November 21, 2009 at 9:17 pm

      Hey Steve.
      Are you planning on posting the training of your high kids at the end of the cross season

    2. stevemagness on November 21, 2009 at 9:48 pm

      yep. when the seasons done.

      Ryan won NXN South this morning so he will be racing at nationals in 2 weeks.

      I'll post it after that.

    3. Drs. Cynthia and David on November 27, 2009 at 10:10 pm

      Thanks for this interesting post. I came across something similar when reading about alpha-lipoic acid- seems it stops the nitric oxide synthase enzyme from doing its thing that mediates vasodilation. Too much oversimplistic thinking, and you have to consider the commercial potential of sales for the next "magic" substance- people tend to see what they want to see when $ is involved.

      I was hoping you would post about your rehabilitation from your hamstring injury. I have a tight hamstring that just stays tight even after easy and rest days. There was no acute injury, but it still hurts all the time. Any suggestions?



    4. stevemagness on December 2, 2009 at 5:47 pm

      Cynthia- Interesting stuff on alpha lipoic acid. I really think the entire supplement industry functions on this oversimplification. You see this all the time in that they isolate one enzyme as being the key to some change.

      My hamstring rehab:
      It was pretty simple and basically involved strengthening the hamstring, sprints, and dynamic flexibility work. It took a while for it to feel normal again.

      My strength work consisted mostly of eccentric hamstring work at the beginning and then I implemented some full body hamstring work. The eccentric stuff started with only doing the lowering portion of the hamstring curl with the only resistance being having a friend pulling lightly against the leg as I lowered. I eventually got up to doing some weighted hamstring lowering. After that I moved to an exercise I really don't know the name of.

      Basically you are on your knees with your torso straight up erect. Have someone hold your feet and then lower your entire body to towards the ground for as long as you can. At first you'll only make it a short bit but soon you'll make it to near the floor. After that I just did some generic leg strength work that was more whole body like squats,lunges,etc.

      Lastly, once the hamstring was strong. I did a lot of hill sprints and then flat sprints. At first I couldn't even really sprint, so I'd say I strode up a hill for 70m. Eventually I got to where I could sprint again. That served to bring back the coordination I had lost I think.

    5. Drs. Cynthia and David on December 3, 2009 at 10:08 pm

      Thanks so much!

      I'm not much of a sprinter these days, but do alot of hills when running trails. Hamstring (one) and gluts complain a lot. I'll try some hamstring specific work as you suggested.


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