Antioxidants in Your Sports Nutrition Plan

In your sports nutrition plan, it is important to have a balance of nutrients, including antioxidants Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Vitamin A. These nutrients in food that have a protective effect on the cells of the body. Exercise produces damaging radicals in the body (although the same exercise may alter the body to better handle these radicals, making it less of an issue than originally thought). There is a lot yet to learn about antioxidants and exercise. The best advice is to pursue these nutrients for their general role in protecting the cells and possibly preventing damage that would lead to disease or impact the aging process. Vitamins C, E and A have many benefits for active women. Go for healthy food sources of these vitamins in your sports nutrition plan. Antioxidants work best as a team of nutrients, rather than as individual supplements.

Color Rules!

Many antioxidants are found in color-rich foods. Every color group represents an antioxidant "family". So, the goal is to get as many naturally colorful foods as you can within the day. (This is easier than memorizing all the antioxidant group names).

Antioxidant Tips

Add berries to your cereal or yogurt.
Upgrade your iceburg lettuce salad to include fresh spinach or Romaine lettuce
with colorful bell pepper strips, tomatoes and carrots.
Drink pomegranate juice.
Sneak broccoli into your stir-fry.
Snack on dried cranberries.

Antioxidant Vitamins



  • Vitamin C

  • Function: Vitamin C works with connective tissue development and healing, and it assists in absorbing plant forms of iron. There may be some support for using Vitamin C to lessen the symptoms of a cold, but it won’t prevent a cold. Recent studies also note that Vitamin C supplementation does not reverse immune suppression in athletes. There are a few studies that support Vitamin C supplementation for muscle recovery, along with a healthy diet.
    Food Sources: citrus fruits, bell peppers, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, and berries.
    RDA for women: 75 milligrams; Upper Limit: 2000 milligrams/day.

  • Vitamin E

  • Function: Vitamin E works in the body to protect cells from damage. There is little support that Vitamin E supplements enhance exercise performance or muscle recovery. In fact, a study by Nieman with triathletes suggested Vitamin E supplementation actually promoted inflammation and cell damage during exercise. So, eat what you need for health, but skip the supplemental E.
    Food Sources: vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, wheat germ, whole grains, egg yolks, and green leafy vegetables.
    RDA: 15 mg d-alpha Tocopherol (22 IU); Upper Limit: 1000 milligrams/day (or 1,500 IU), although headaches, fatigue, and most recent reports of increased risk of bleeding can occur in amounts greater than 400 IU.

  • Vitamin A

  • Function: Vitamin A works in the body for the health of eyes and skin, as an antioxidant (carotenes) and for bone growth. There is little support that supplemental Vitamin A improves exercise performance.
    Food Sources: Animal sources (retinol) include fortified milk and cheese, liver, egg yolks; plant sources (carotenoids) include dark green and orange vegetables.
    RDA for women: 2,300 IU (700 micrograms (mcg)); Upper Limit: Vitamin A as retinol = 3000 mcg. There is no established UL for carotenoids, although some have suggested not to exceed 15,000 IU. Do not take retinal-based supplements unless you are under a doctor’s supervision (commonly used for acne treatment). Large doses of retinol-form vitamin supplements can be toxic; beta-carotene forms of vitamin A are preferred, but large doses of beta-carotene can turn your skin orange.

    Be sure to include antioxidants in your sports nutrition goals.

    Learn more about sports nutrition goals using whole foods.

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