Working out is one of the best things we can do for ourselves, we all know that. And if moderate exercise is good for us, high-intensity training increases dramatically the demand on our bodies and this can cause damages to our DNA.
In other words if you’re an Ironman, a triathlete, an otherwise endurance athlete or just a workout junkie that enjoys putting his body to test quite often (such as myself) you want to be extra careful in addressing the “DNA issues” related to strenuous exercise.
How? According to a new study, published in the latest issue of the British Journal of Nutrition, from scientists at Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Ulster, eating green leafy veggies (such as watercress) can prevent some of the damage caused by high intensity exercise and help maximise the benefits of a tough workout.
In other words, the more you workout the more green leafy veggies you want to include in your daily eating regimen.
Very intense exercise creates an increased free radical effect in our bodies. Free radicals can damage and mutate DNA and some other cell tissue in the body.
That’s why if we pound the treadmill, lift weights, or do high-levels of training we need to make sure to offset this increased free radical effect.
And that’s exactly what this latest study addresses. "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. It's an interesting step forward in sports nutrition development and research" said study leader Dr Mark Fogarty, from Edinburgh Napier's School of Life, Sport and Social Sciences.
The study included ten healthy men, aged on an average of 23 years old. For 8 weeks they were given 85 grams of watercress (roughly a small bag) and they were asked to participate in high-level exercise on the treadmill.
The results were compared to an eight-week study which was conducted without watercress consumption.
The scientists also tested whether the protection properties of watercress were affected by the regularity of consumption.
Dr Fogarty added: "We put participants through short bursts of intense exercise and found that those who had not eaten watercress were found to have more DNA damage than those that did. What was also fascinating is that the effect of eating watercress was not reliant on an accumulative build-up in our bodies. Those that ate the vegetable just two hours before exercise experienced the same benefits as those who had consumed the vegetable for eight weeks."
He added: “A bag of watercress a day may be influential in aiding the body's healing process. However, sensible advice when exercising still stands and whether you are consuming watercress or not, you should always stay hydrated and listen to your body when it tells you enough is enough.”
The findings of this latest research stress out that the more we put our body to the test, the more we want to take care of it afterwards.
Also, it gives us a further reason to include even more green leafy vegetables in our diet in order to alleviate the natural stress put on our body by a workout.
So make yourself a green juice, a green protein smoothie or otherwise just make sure that you include a good amount of kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, swiss chard, watercress or other green veggies in our daily diet; by doing so you can happily “destroy” yourself during your workouts without worrying about potential damages that might occur to your body.
The Iron You
Note: The study was sponsored by Vitacress Salads, one of Europe’s leading growers of watercress.