Antioxidants are a class of nutrients that protect the body from damage caused by different factors, most importantly oxidative damage caused by substances called free radicals. Free radicals are known as “reactive oxygen species”, or ROS. They are produced when your body uses oxygen for energy. Just as fire emits smoke as a by-product, ROS are emitted from the conversion of oxygen to energy in the human body, eventually causing oxidative damage to body systems. Free radicals are also created when the body is exposed to pollution, cigarette smoke, car exhaust and other harmful environmental toxins.
There are different types of antioxidants, and most work better when paired with other antioxidants. This is called synergism. Vitamins can be antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E. The tripeptide glutathione, loosely classified as an amino acid, acts as an antioxidant, along with other true amino acids such as methionine. The raw herbs and vegetables we consume contain natural antioxidants called bioflavonoids and carotenoids, which are effective antioxidants on their own, but are more effective when synergistically combined with other antioxidants. Together these nutrients protect your cells from electron robbery at the hands of larcenous free radicals, protecting the body from disease and slowing the inevitable signs of aging.
Antioxidants are important supplements for everyone, but especially for those who exercise on a regular basis. The rational is that exercise is a highly oxidative process and, as a consequence, produces free radicals from aerobic metabolism. Antioxidant compounds help alleviate this process.