Antioxidants, popular with athletes and fitness enthusiasts, are being challenged by research that shows the nutritional supplements may reduce exercise benefits.
Dr Natalie Strobel, of Edith Cowan University, has found that long-term use of Vitamin E and alpha-lipoic acid, purported to counteract free radicals during exercise, reduced the development of skeletal muscle in animals.
“We found that even before the animals exercised, taking antioxidants put their muscles behind the eight ball and who wants all that effort exercising wasted,” says Natalie. “Antioxidants are taken in large quantities by athletes and healthy people under the false impression that this is helping their sporting performance or boosting health.”
For her PhD at The University of Queensland, Natalie observed that rats that exercised for 12 weeks had positive muscle adaptations, but when they took vitamin E and alpha-lipoic acid they did not experience the same benefits.
Natalie says further research is needed in this area. “Antioxidants have their place as an important nutritional supplement, but if you’re healthy you can’t beat a nutritious diet and exercise,” she says.