As far as muscle growth is concerned, it is important to consider the environment in which we live and the high stress levels that we all face everyday. These two factors lead to an increase in the production of free radicals by the body. These little troublemakers are produced naturally by the body as we obtain energy from our food in a process called oxidative phosphorylation.
The Metabolic Process
Those of you who are loyal readers have encountered this term in previous nutrition articles, so I won't waste your time in describing this metabolic process. In the body, energy is produced safely in the presence of optimal antioxidants which are able to neutralize any excess production of free radicals.
Essentially, free radicals destroy tissue in search of electrons; antioxidants sacrifice themselves for body tissue by donating an electron to a free radical. Therefore, if your body is depleted of antioxidants, then you will have a chaotic event occur inside your body. The production of excess free radicals causes damage to the immune system, the nuclei of cells, blood vessel linkage, and cell membrane stability. This damage from free radicals can be seen as being directly related to the increase in cardiovascular disease, cancer, and auto-immune syndromes.
Vitamin A is a vitamin that has powerful antioxidant properties. It plays an essential role in the maintenance of the skin and the mucous membranes or internal linings of the body. The maintenance of these two tissues helps to prevent environmental toxins from entering the body. Vitamin A also stimulates the immune system in a number of ways, by producing an antitumoral effect, enhancing white blood cell function, and increasing the activity of antibodies.
Beta-carotene is a pigment that gives carrots, and yellow and red fruits and vegetables their color. The body uses Beta-carotene to make Vitamin A and has been shown to be a very powerful antioxidant. Numerous medical studies have proven its anticancer effect in the liver, skin, and lungs. Beta-carotene appears to enhance thymus gland function, which increases interferon production and thus stimulates the immune system. Interferon is a powerful immune stimulator and plays a key role in helping the immune system to fight off viral infections.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, first came to fame by preventing scurvy in the British Navy. Before the discovery of Vitamin C, sailors on long voyages were highly susceptible to death due to scurvy because their diets contained less than 60 mg of Vitamin C per day. The British Navy adopted a ration of lemons and limes for their crews and thus earned the nickname "Limeys." Today, Vitamin C is the most popular vitamin supplement in North America because it is a very powerful antioxidant.
Unfortunately, most people only consume the RDA (recommended daily allowance) for Vitamin C which is 60 mg; this is only adequate if you want to prevent scurvy. To be used as an antioxidant, high prolonged doses are required. As Vitamin C is water-soluble, it does not have a toxic effect. If you take too much, then the worst thing that can happen is that you may have a mild case of diarrhea. However, drinking sufficient amounts of water will prevent this from happening.
Vitamin C is important because it is used to neutralize free radicals produced by environmental toxins. Cigarette smokers are well-known to be deficient in Vitamin C and should be taking 5000 mg daily just to neutralize the effect of smoking. Vitamin C is also an important catalyst for other important physiological reactions that keep the body healthy. A catalyst helps to speed up or helps to produce a physiological reaction. In addition, vitamin C plays a major role in collagen production in connective tissues.
Vitamin E is known as an anti-aging vitamin and is important in maintaining a healthy reproductive system, increased circulation, and the prevention of heart disease. Vitamin E's role as an antioxidant is to protect cell membranes from damage. As discussed previously, free radical damage cell membranes which leads to premature cell death. Selenium is a trace mineral which is a primary component of the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase and works well with Vitamin E in preventing cell damage.
Alpha-lipoic acid (or Lipoec) is used by the body to produce energy in the cell and as an antioxidant. In Germany, Alpha-lipoic acid is used as a prescribed drug for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy and AIDS. Diabetes causes changes in the metabolism of the body whereby nerves become damaged, which can lead to blindness and sensory loss in the extremities. Alpha-lipoic acid's antioxidant properties have been researched and shown to protect and heal the nerves from free radical damage.
AIDS research has shown that Alpha-lipoic acid may help the immune system and reduce the replication of the AIDS virus. This may be accomplished through the antioxidant property of reducing free-radical concentrations in the blood.
Pycnogenol & Grapeseed Extract
Pycnogenol and grapeseed extract contain procyanidolic oligomers (PCOs) which come from the flavonoid family of plant extracts. This family of plants also contains green tea which has been in the news for its anti-carcinogenic properties. The antioxidant properties of PCOs are their ability to be free-radical scavengers. Certain antioxidants work as scavengers to get any free radicals that get away.
You can see that the extra protection we need from free radicals to protect our bodies from various diseases and muscle breakdown is readily available in a variety of foods. In addition, I feel that it is certainly warranted to take a potent antioxidant daily in order to reach full health potential and avoid protein breakdown in the body.
You have seen that free radicals are very detrimental to the body. Through supplementing with antioxidants, you can lower your risk of diseases, disorders, and muscle catabolism. Remember, through supplementation, it is possible to prevent excessive break down of muscle tissue that is accompanied with a training session and speed up the recovery process too!