You just worked out – maybe you worked your whole body with The Human Trainer. So you decided to treat yourself – hey, you deserve it! And you go get a nice big mocha latte with whipped cream on top. Hey, you just burned 400 calories in your workout, why not? Well, there’s one huge reason why you might not want to!
The More Exercise, The Better Nutrition Required
The more you exercise, the better your nutrition must be! It’s a huge fallacy to think that because you work out you can afford to eat more unhealthy foods – in fact, the opposite is true! The more you workout, the more you CAN’T afford to eat unhealthy foods.
Here’s why: When you workout, your body burns more energy to get your muscles working. This extra energy is what allows you to do those extra pushups or run another mile. But there is a catch – it’s called free radicals. You see, when you burn food for fuel at the cellular level, your body creates ATP (energy) but a by-product of that reaction is the creation of molecules called free radicals (or oxidative radicals). These free radicals are molecules that are missing electrons – and because they’re missing an electron, they are highly unstable, meaning they will react with just about any other molecule in your body – whether it’s the collagen molecules in your skin, your DNA inside your cells or the lining of your blood vessels.
When free radicals build up, they can lead to oxidative stress or free radical damage, which is basically the process of aging. Oxidative stress is also the process that contributes to cancer, when free radicals damage DNA over time, eventually a mutation can occur. And some mutations can lead to cancer. Oxidative stress can also lead to heart disease. In fact, when people talk about “bad cholesterol” they’re really misinformed. LDL Cholesterol is NOT bad for you at all – without it you would die! The problem occurs when your LDL cholesterol is oxidized – and when that happens, the cholesterol can damage the lining of your blood vessels and your endothelial cells, leading to hardening of the arteries and eventually heart disease and heart attacks.
When you work out, your body actually produces more free radicals, not less, because you’re burning more food for fuel at the cellular level. Thus, there IS a downside to exercise – so the key is to understand free radicals in the first place and know what to do about it.
Antioxidants – The Key To A Healthy Workout
There is only one way for your body to protect itself from free radicals – antioxidants. There are some antioxidants, like Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), that your body can produce naturally. Many other antioxidants, however, can’t be produced in the body and you can only get them from eating healthy plant foods like fruits, vegetables and berries. Just one apple, for instance, contains over 10,000 phytonutrients or antioxidants – and there are probably ten thousand more in that apple, but scientists have yet to isolate and discover them all. And, the truth is, we have NO IDEA what all of these nutrients do. Sure, we know Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and it’s crucial for healthy immune function. But Vitamin C is just one of the tens of thousands of antioxidants that we’ve isolated. So many more have been named but not studied. Here’s what we do know though – you absolutely must get your antioxidants from whole food nutrition. There’s something about those tens of thousands of antioxidants working together in harmony that protect your body from free radicals in a way no isolated vitamin supplement can.
Furthermore, we know from studies in Austria that whole food nutrition from fruits and vegetables can actually reduce muscle damage and oxidative stress in athletes. This is why splurging on dessert or a sugary drink after working out may not be the best idea – your body is craving antioxidants after a workout! And if you just fill up on empty calories, you won’t be giving your body what it needs to repair – which could lead to muscle damage, aging, and a host of other conditions. So if you really want to give you workouts a boost and make sure you’re feeding your body write, go for the fruits, vegetables and berries before or after a workout for best effect. You can mix them into a smoothie as well to make it a super healthy and filling meal.
This article written by Tom Corson-Knowles, founder of Authentic Health Coaching, the #1 Alternative Health Podcast show on Podomatic. Tom blogs regularly about healthy eating, nutrition tips for athletes, and whole food nutrition supplements.