The antioxidant market is big business and millions of pounds are spent every year on antioxidant supplements – such as vitamin A, C and E – as well as fruit and vegetable extracts and juices.
Antioxidants are so popular – particularly among people who do a lot of exercise – because it is believed they help to reduce muscle soreness after exercise. It is thought that by taking antioxidant supplements in doses much higher than the recommended amounts, muscles recover quicker by reducing some of the harmful effects of exercise. And this is why so many people swear by antioxidants – such as cherry juice or pomegranate juice – after a workout.
Some people also take antioxidant supplements to improve their general health or protect against certain cancers but the scientific evidence for this is poor. And similarly, our recent analysis of the existing scientific literature found similar results.
We recently published a Cochrane review which included 50 studies looking at the link between antioxidant use and reduced muscle soreness. And we discovered that there is no solid evidence that antioxidants works.
Muscle soreness typically occurs following unaccustomed or intense exercise and usually peaks two days afterwards. This can obviously impair future athletic performance, so it’s not surprising that various interventions have been put forward to reduce exercise related muscle aches and pains.
These range from a number of different techniques, including whole body cryotherapy – which involves getting exposure to extremely cold temperatures for several minutes in a special chamber where temperatures can range from -110 to -140°C. Then there is also the use of compression garments and massage, as well as antioxidant supplementation.
Should athletes take antioxidant supplements? Probably not. Pexels
Some athletes also strategically take antioxidant supplements to accelerate recovery during periods of intense competition rather than taking them every day. In professional football for example, when there can often be periods of fixture congestion (a team may play three matches in an eight day period), dietary antioxidants are used to reduce inflammation and muscle soreness. The belief is this will allow the players to recover more quickly in preparation for the next match.