Carbon dioxide is one human by-product of oxygen consumption. Another by-product of endurance and/or high intensity exercise are free radicals, molecules or ions that have a negative charge. These free radicals, unless neutralized by anti-oxidants, will bond to cells in the body. If free radicals build up in an athlete’s body, it can cause diminished mental acuity, recovery, and fatigue.
Anti-oxidants, found in food and nutritional supplements, are positively charged and bond with the free radicals. Therefore, including foods high in anti-oxidants is important to ensure proper recovery. “Super foods” considered rich in anti-oxidants are brightly colored fruits, green tea, red wine, and dark chocolate.
Lisa Buohler, a TriLAB racing team member and certified fitness trainer, shares why she feels lycopene, found in tomatoes is her favorite super anti-oxidant:
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant and has great health benefits. It is a carotenoid and one of the most potent carotenoid antioxidants. It is found in tomatoes and other red fruits, such as watermelon, pink grapefruit, pink guava, papaya, and rosehip. Tomatoes being the richest source.
Unlike other fruits and vegetables where nutritional content such as vitamin C is lost during cooking, cooking of tomatoes actually increases the bioavailability of Lycopene. For example, lycopene in tomato paste is four times more bioavailable than in fresh tomatoes. This is because lycopene is insoluble to water and tightly bound to vegetable fiber. Lycopene as a powerful antioxidant that helps to neutralize harmful free radicals.
In a variety of different studies at Harvard University, lycopene has shown to be helpful in lowering the risks of certain cancers. Lycopene has also shown to be heart protective, and can be beneficial in aiding blood pressure and bone health. Lycopene is considered safe and non-toxic, without side effects. However, it is debatable that supplements are as beneficial as food sources.
Further studies are still being carried out to confirm the effectiveness in cancer. The American Cancer Association says that we can be very optimistic about the power of this antioxidant.
Eat your tomatoes!