Dec 28, 2017
Antioxidant Armor
Lisa Dorfman

You’ve no doubt heard of antioxidants, and probably seen advertisements for everything from fruit juices to dietary supplements touting antioxidant benefits. But do you know what antioxidants do, how they work, and how to make sure your athletes are taking advantage of their benefits? With sometimes confusing and conflicting research, that’s not easy. But when helping athletes plan a diet that promotes optimal health and performance, antioxidants should definitely be part of the discussion.

Antioxidants are the primary chemical line of defense against the negative impact of free radicals. These compounds also help to repair cells already impacted by free radical damage.

The body produces some antioxidants on its own in the form of certain enzymes, such as superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, and catalase, which change the structure of free radicals and break them down. These enzymes essentially scavenge for and destroy free radicals throughout the body.

To support the endogenous antioxidants, we also consume them through diet. Exogenous antioxidants include vitamins A (carotenoids), C, and E, selenium, and various flavonoids. All these substances can help prevent free radical damage, and together with the body’s natural antioxidants, they are the main source of protection for muscles and other tissue.

How does an athlete choose a diet rich in antioxidants? Here are two examples of antioxidant-rich daily meal plans:



• Whole-grain toast with

vegetable oil spread

• Yogurt with berries

• Glass of orange juice or lowfat chocolate milk

Morning Snack

• Apple slices with dried fruit trail mix

• Iced green tea


• Green vegetable salad with carrots, tomatoes,

celery, and onion

• Vegetable oil dressing

• Grilled chicken breast

seasoned with curcumin

and parsley

• Steamed broccoli

• Baked potato fries

• Berry juice blend

Afternoon Snack

• Whole-grain crackers

• Baby carrots with dip


• Green salad

• Lean roast beef

• Steamed broccoli with

parmesan cheese

• Whole-grain roll

Late Snack

• Citrus fruit salad topped

with granola/trail mix



• Egg white omelet with spinach, tomatoes, and peppers

• Blueberry whole-grain waffle with berry fruit syrup

• Grape juice or lowfat

chocolate milk

Morning Snack

• Strawberry yogurt parfait topped with almond slivers

• Soy-based snack bar


• Spinach salad with shredded carrots, yellow peppers, and mushrooms

• Cinnamon-seasoned tuna wrap made with whole-grain tomato tortilla

• Orange juice

Afternoon Snack

• Whole-grain pita chips

• Soy nut butter spread


• Mixed green salad

• Chicken stir fry with broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms

• Brown rice

Late Snack

• Honey almond soy crisps

• Sparkling water with lemon

Lisa Dorfman, MS, RD, CSSD, LMHC, aka The Running Nutritionist®, is a leader to industry the public and the press for more than two decades. She is personal nutritionist for hundreds of high school athletes and teams; dozens of professional athletes, including those in the NFL, MLB, PGA, USTA, US Boxing, USA Taekwondo, and was the US Sailing Olympic and Paralympics Team Nutritionist for the 2008 Olympics.

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