The bigger picture
Even if antioxidant supplements turn out not to be harmful in exercisers, theres no convincing evidence that they are beneficial. Here are some other reasons not to take them:
• Its not clear how much exercise-induced oxidative damage is actually produced and what effect it has on health. Theres some evidence that only high-intensity or exhaustive exercisesuch as running a marathonsignificantly increases oxidative damage.
• The body seems to adapt to regular exercise over time by boosting antioxidant activity, thus decreasing oxidative damage and making supplements unnecessary.
• Free radicals are actually good in some ways. Some, for example, are involved in cell signaling, immunity, and other physiological functions. And small amounts also stimulate the bodys antioxidant defenses.
• No research has shown that athletes suffer long-term negative health effects from free radical damage. Rather, the research is clear that exercise makes people healthier, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and some cancers.
Words to the wise: We dont recommend vitamin C or E or any other antioxidant supplements for anyoneathlete or couch potato. Its not known if free radicals generated during exercise are even harmful and need to be blocked. The proven benefits of exercise far outweigh any theoretical risks. Get your antioxidants from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. And adopt a consistent, moderate workout routine to better enhance your bodys antioxidant defenses over time.