Fitness is full of buzz words that are often thrown around with little regard for what they mean; three of the most common phrases used with little explanation about what they are include oxidative Stress, anti oxidants and Inflammation. They all sound very impressive but what do they ultimately mean to us that just want to be to be a little bit stronger, fitter and faster? Oxidative stress is the term used to define the process where free radical production over comes the bodies natural anti oxidants capacity. During metabolism in the presences of oxygen, Reactive

Oxygen Species (ROS) are produced as a metabolic by product and are required to maintain homeostasis within the body via cell signalling. Increases in cellular metabolism (i.e. during Met Con’s), stress on the immune system, overtraining or exposure to environmental pollutants such as radiation, cigarette smoke, pesticides, herbicides and commercial chemicals can cause a increase in free radicals production, resulting in cellular damage. A simplistic example of this include when apples turn brown once peeled and exposed to air or when metal starts to rust when paint is removed.

Anti oxidants protect the body from this damage by providing an additional electron for free radicals

** ensuring they no longer need to obtain the missing electron from the bodies cells. Consequently, anti oxidants become oxidised which explains why constant production or consumption is required to prevent oxidative stress outweighing anti oxidant capacity.

** Note: Free radicals are molecules that have an un-coupled electron, this makes them highly unstable and as a result they look to obtain an additional electron from other cells to form a more stable molecule. This scavenging of the additional electrons forms a reactive chain due to an increase in unstable molecules Acute increases in free radical production form the initial stages of recovery from illness or exercise and signals a cascade of events allowing the body to adapt to the stress that it has been exposed to. In short, we want to throw the body out of its comfort zone (Met Cons), give it something to think about and allow it to recover. This is often described as an ‘inverted U theory’ meaning either inadequate or excessive amounts of free radicals may impair recovery or cause oxidative stress, conversely optimum amounts allows adaptation to stress and recovery. Chronic Oxidative stress occurs when the free radical production outweighs the body’s ability for anti oxidants to neutralise the adverse effects that high level of free radical produce. This imbalance between free radicals and anti oxidants results in cellular damage and DNA defects

Chronic oxidative stress has been linked with

Inflammatory disorders
Premature aging
Parkinson’s disease
Auto Immune disorders
Cardiovascular disease
Diabetes and insulin resistance
Impaired athletic performance and recovery from exercise

Increasing the bodies’ natural production of anti oxidants via regular exercise and diet high in fruit, vegetables, vitamins, minerals, flavonoids and polyphenols can protect the body from oxidative resulting in:

Improved recovery from exercise
Slowing of the bodies aging process
The prevention of cancer
The prevention of cardiovascular disease
The prevention of metabolic syndrome
Improved immune function


Inflammation is the body’s innate immune response to infection, irritation, or injury. Immune cells are drawn to the site via the blood stream. The blood vessels near the site become permeable and allow increased blood flow to the affected area. This produces the warm, red sensation often associated with inflammation and injury. Acute Inflammation is a part of the body’s natural defence system against injury and disease and is needed for the recover process to begin Chronic inflammation is when the bodies systems are constantly fighting inflammation and starts to fight against its self, failing to overcome the state on inflammation it is faced with on a daily basis, over time this can lead to auto immune and degenerative disease An analogy of this would be:-

A old house is damaged in a storm, in order to help rebuild the damaged building a bulldozer is needed to knock down parts of the building, take away all debris to allow the rebuilding of the house to take place: This would be acute inflammation as the initial inflammatory signal is needed to get the ball rolling to fix any damaged caused. This is ultimately why we train, we do a little bit of damage to our body which signals the body to clear away the damaged tissues and rebuild and little bit stronger.

The house next door is also damaged in the storm, but the owners hire a different bulldozing company to help sort out the mess. This company isn’t as good and when they try and clear the damage caused by the storm they end up bumping into things and knocking down other walls and things around the house ultimately causing more damage: This would be chronic inflammation as the signal required to start the recovery process is stronger than the ability to do the job of clearing away the damage and starting the rebuilding job. This is what happens when do train too much and rest to little, the body becomes overly inflamed and cannot clear away the damaged caused by the last session before we doing it all over again, this can lead to impaired performance, injury and illness.

Causes of inflammation:

Poor diet (high in sugar, processed foods, low fruit & vegetable and lean protein)
High omega 6 fatty acid to Omega 3 fatty acid ratio of the modern diet: Get you fish oil kids
Poor digestive health
Low levels of physical activity.
Low levels of fitness
Smoking / passive smoking
Stress (psychological / mental / physical – overtraining)
Sleep deprivation
Environmental exposure to toxins and pollutants
Genetic predisposition.
Being overweight / higher body fat percentage

Symptoms of inflammation:

Swollen and painful joints
Muscular stiffness
Red appearance that is warm to touch
Digestive discomfort / bloating / IBS

The good news is that our diet can have a huge effect on reducing inflammation turning the body from pro-inflammatory to anti-inflammatory

Pro inflammatory foods:

Refined grains
Grape seed, cottonseed, safflower, corn and sunflower oils: Especially if heated
Poor quality fish or meat: ‘ We’re not what we eat, we’re what our foods eats’
Any food you personally have an intolerance and allergy to

Anti Inflammatory foods:

Avocado / Olive oil
Blueberries / Cherries / strawberries
Whey protein – As found in Hydro-Iso
Fish Oil and Multi vitamins: As found in Fission Nutrition Athletes Paks – acting like an insurance policy in case things are missing from a daily diet Sample high anti oxidant meal plan…

Meal 1 : Ham, Spinach and Pepper omelette: Athlete Pak – Multi Vit – Vit C – B vitamin
Mid morning: 1 scoop Hyrdo-iso / handful of blueberries & amp; Walnuts
Training session – Intra Xcel – volume and intensity dependant
Post training: X4Ri Protein – Peptide Bonded Glutamine – athlete Pak: Glucosamine – Fish Oils
Meal 2: Tuna & Avocado salad, apple cider vinegar dressing,
Meal 3: Oven baked stuffed kale and ginger chicken, basmati rice, broccoli, teaspoon of olive oil
Meal 4: 1 scoop G TECH 5 protein,1 portion of koko coconut / natural yoghurt & chopped strawberries


Oxidative stress is the term used to define the process where free radical production over comes the bodies natural anti oxidants capacity
Anti oxidants protect the body from this damage by providing an additional electron for free radicals
Inflammation is the body’s innate immune response to infection, irritation, or injury.
All of these things are required for us to adapt and recovery from training, but when oxidative stress and inflammation out ways the bodies capacity to manage it then it becomes a issues that can effect health as well l as performance
Eating the right foods can have a massive effect on reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, eating brightly coloured friut and veg, fish and olive oil, lean meats (ideally grass fed, hormone free) while avoiding sugar, processed grains, heated vegetable oils and poor quality meats will have a significant effect on recovery and performance.

About the author:
Paul holds and MSc in Exercise and Nutrition Science and a BSc in Sport and Exercise science
He has worked and consulted with athletes in a wide variety of sports including competitive CrossFit athletes, international weightlifters in the masters age group, MMA fighters and recreational crossfitters and fitness enthusiasts just looking in improve health and body composition.
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