Mad for Exercise? Get Antioxidants in Your Diet

Antioxidants help to prevent injury to skeletal muscles and decrease fatigue

athletic man doing pushups

If you exercise regularly, make sure you’re getting enough beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E in your diet. Research shows that these antioxidants help to prevent injury to skeletal muscles and decrease fatigue during endurance events.

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How antioxidants work

Antioxidants are found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other foods. They protect the body from damage caused by free radicals – destructive compounds that damage cells.

Your body creates free radicals when you work out frequently because exercise is a good stress on body, says Cleveland Clinic Sports Health dietitian Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD.  This can cause injury to skeletal muscles and fatigue.

Antioxidants stabilize free radicals and minimize the damage they do.

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Find your antioxidants in food

Try to boost your intake of antioxidants through your diet. While antioxidants have beneficial effects, large doses taken as supplements may be harmful.

Keep the rainbow in mind to ensuring that you’re getting enough antioxidants in your diet. The greater the variety of colors in your fruits and vegetables, the better. Shoot for at least five or more servings every day.

Natural sources of antioxidants

Beta carotene. This nutrient is found in red, green, yellow and orange foods such as:

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  • Cantaloupe
  • Pumpkin
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Green leafy lettuce, spinach, kale, collard and turnip greens
  • Romaine lettuce

Vitamin C. The sunshine vitamin is plentiful in fruits and veggies, particularly:

Vitamin E. This vitamin is not found in produce but in:

  • Wheat germ
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds
  • Green leafy lettuce-spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens

Selenium. You’ll find this mineral in protein-rich foods, like:

  • Fish and shellfish
  • Red meats
  • Turkey
  • Brazil nuts
  • Whole grains

For help in figuring out a meal plan that incorporates enough antioxidants for your active lifestyle, see a dietitian — especially one familiar with sports and exercise.

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