Whether a “weekend warrior” or a professional, all athletes are looking to boost the endurance or performance of their sport.
Athletes want to be able to run faster, hit a ball further, lift heavier weights, swim further, hit a tennis ball harder, or get more basketballs through the hoop. Of course, they want to be able to do all these things while, at the same time, prevent injuries that could land them on the sidelines.
It is not unusual for DCs to see athletes come into their practice seeking help to up their game. Regular chiropractic adjustments can help the athlete not only recover from musculoskeletal injuries, but also help prevent further injuries.
Many athletes may also be looking for supplements, as well, and this is where the DC’s expertise can really shine.
Exercise does a body good—or does it?
We’ve all heard time and again that exercise is good for the body. Not only can regular exercise, combined with a sensible, balanced diet, help shed fat and build muscle, it can also reduce stress and protect against many chronic diseases such as cancer.
However, exercise may also damage the body at a cellular level, particularly for those weekend warriors who are sedentary during the week and only get vigorous exercise on the weekends.1
Vigorous exercise increases the body’s use of oxygen by anywhere from 10 to 20 times the oxygen use rate when at rest. This increased oxygen use will also increase the body’s production of free radicals, which are atoms with an odd, or unpaired, number of atoms. These free radicals can cause damage to both cells and DNA.1
In response to this increased production of free radicals, the body will also produce antioxidants, which protect the body against damage.1–2 The key to producing enough antioxidants to combat the damage caused by free radicals is to have a consistent exercise routine, such as that of elite athletes. However, there may not be enough antioxidant production to offset free-radical production for the weekend warriors. 1–2
The dilemma is how best to boost anti-oxidant production in those athletes who are getting most, if not all, of their exercise on weekends.
Corralling free radicals
Now that we understand this cellular dilemma, the next question is how to boost regular antioxidant production. Changing the diet to increase foods rich in antioxidants is perhaps the easiest way to solve this problem. This should include increased intake of several key vitamins, such as:1
- Vitamin E: Nuts, seeds, vegetable and fish oil, whole grains (particularly wheat germ), and apricots
- Vitamin C: Citrus fruits and juices, green peppers, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, kale, cantaloupe, kiwi, and strawberries
- Beta-carotene: Liver, egg yolk, milk, butter, spinach, carrots, squash, broccoli, yams, tomato, cantaloupe, peaches, and grains
There are numerous studies that have examined the effect of antioxidant supplements in conjunction with changing the diet to further protect the body against damage from free radicals. An article in the August 2000 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined a number of studies looking at the effect of exercise, diet, and selenium and pollen supplements on antioxidant production. Although these supplements did not enhance performance, they did show a decrease in free-radical production.3 A more recent study, however, actually appears to show performance benefits for antioxidant supplementation, as well.4
Savvy DCs who see athletes in their practice should not only be performing adjustments but also be looking at ways to help supplement their diets. Recommending antioxidant supplements is crucial for helping athletes, particularly weekend warriors, maintain peak performance.
1 Rice University. “Antioxidants and free radicals.” Rice University. http://www.rice.edu/~jenky/sports/antiox.html. Accessed March 2015.
2 Cox G. Antioxidants in sport: Current thinking. Sports Coach. 28(1).
3 Clarkson P, Thompson H. Antioxidants: What role do they play in physical activity and health? Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;72(2):637s–646s.
4 Bentley DJ, Coupland R, Dank S, Midgley A, Spence I. Acute antioxidant supplementation improves endurance performance in trained athletes. Res Sports Med. 2012;20(1):1–12.