In our society, more is better. Especially when it comes to exercise these days… the more extreme, the better. CrossFit. Extreme obstacle races. Insanity. You get the idea.
But the truth is, exercise is hard on your body. You have to take precautions.
The result? The current protein craze. People are downing protein shakes and bars pre- and post-workout. They think because muscle is protein and that’s what they are working, that the body needs protein to repair and protect itself.1
Dr. Mark Fogarty from Edinburgh Napier University doesn’t buy into the hype. He’s an expert in sport physiology2 and has done several studies on exercise, free radicals, and oxidative stress.
And he’s just discovered a new pre-workout snack that helps protect your body during strenuous exercise. Plus it gives you a little boost. His new study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition.3
Dr. Fogarty shines light on this super-food that is rich in antioxidants. We know antioxidants are valuable in fighting free radicals.
Exercise – The Good and the Bad
During exercise, oxidation and DNA damage occurs.4 Because of the increased blood circulation, you need more oxygen during a grueling workout and so do your tissues.
This lack of oxygen creates a buildup of free radicals. And we know free radicals are shown to have a hand in everything from aging to cancer.
But there’s no need to run off and cancel your gym membership. Dr. Fogarty’s new findings show you can protect yourself with an item right out of the produce department.
What is this power food?
“What we’ve found is that consuming a relatively small amount of watercress each day can help raise the levels of important antioxidant vitamins, which may help protect our bodies, and allow us to enjoy the rewards of keeping fit,” said Dr. Fogarty.
Adding Spice to the Study
The study followed ten healthy men, average age 23, for 16 weeks. Scientists took blood samples from the men and asked them to eat 85 grams – a small bag – of watercress a day for eight weeks.
The men then participated in high-level exercise on a treadmill.
Following the short bursts of intense exercise, researchers took another round of blood samples.
The men repeated the study for another eight weeks – minus the watercress.
Researchers found a clear increase in DNA damage after exercise when the men were not eating watercress.
Add watercress and the results get interesting…
Scientists tested to see if regularity of consumption made a difference.
They found out those who ate watercress just two hours before exercise experienced the same benefits as those who had consumed the vegetable for eight weeks.
Good news for those of you who don’t want to eat the leafy green every day.
But Dr. Fogarty cautions people. He says that whether you’re consuming watercress or not, being sensible while exercising still stands.5 You should stay hydrated and listen to your body. When it says it’s enough… it’s enough.
How You Can Benefit
Angela Ginn, registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, encourages people to eat their greens.6 She says to have a quarter, if not half, of your plate filled with a green leafy vegetable such as watercress, once or twice a day to fight off free radicals.
But even if you don’t exercise regularly, watercress is a great source of vitamins A, C, and K. And its abundance of iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen to your body’s tissues for energy. You can cook it. But you get the most nutritious punch when you eat it raw.
We all know that exercise is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But just keep in mind, you need to take precautions to get the most out of your workout. Don’t fill your body with synthetic vitamin-laced protein products. Watercress is a safe and natural way to get the vitamin and antioxidant-fighting protection you need.
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