Prevention

This program for female athletes helps prevent disease and enhances athletic performance.


Preventive nutrition is the use of dietary practices directed towards the improvement of health and the elimination of disease. Together with exercise, it is the most effective tool used by female athletes to prevent or delay the progression of disease.

Preventive strategies for female athletes include reducing saturated fats, obtaining adequate fiber and eating foods high in colorful complex carbohydrates. Additionally, supplementing the diet with botanicals, antioxidants, calcium, folic acid, soy, medicinal mushrooms and omega-3 fatty acids can provide long-term benefits to all female athletes. Specifically, the judicious use of these nutritional supplements can lower the risk or at least delay the major chronic diseases affecting menopausal athletes.

Athletes, with their special metabolism and physical powers are usually in excellent health during their prime. After the age of fifty however, many female athletes succumb to the destructive forces of life.

Cancer, cardiovascular disease, eye disorders, osteoporosis and joint inflammation are examples of chronic diseases that female athletes encounter later in life. The dietary habits that contribute to an athlete’s exceptional condition in their prime should also be employed to ward off the effects of age and delay the progression of chronic diseases.

 

Botanical supplements contain a library of compounds with various mechanisms to account for the myriad of effects attributed to these bioactive phytochemicals. Most involve the role of antioxidants as active chemo-preventive agents.

 

Free Radicals

Arthritis, inflammation and injuries occur as a result of exercise and are covered in Health.  In short, the production of free radicals is greatly accelerated following the completion of exercise due to the rapid re-oxygenation of muscle tissues and the burning of builtup lactic acid. The continual destruction of healthy tissue by free radicals is a threat to a female athlete’s long-term health. Free radicals, reactive oxygen metabolite or reactive oxygen species are interchangeable terms that denote an unstable compound. Free radicals possess an unpaired single electron in its outer orbit or shell. This unpaired electron searches for a partner and attacks other stable molecules. The free radical attack on the outer shell of a neutral compound fills its own outer shell but leaves the neutral compound with an unpaired electron in its outer shell. The original free radical thus initiates a chain reaction causing oxidation of other molecules and rendering these compounds functionally altered or free radicals themselves. 


Free radicals or reactive oxygen species are produced during normal cellular metabolism in the oxidation of fuel. Other sources of free radicals are inflammation, strenuous exercise, alcohol, ultraviolet light, detoxification, radiation, environmental pollutants, cigarette smoke, excess calcium, high fat diets, and stored or unbound iron. Free radicals are toxic compounds that alter subcellular components by denaturing proteins and oxidizing membrane lipids. In some cases free radicals initiate mutational changes in DNA.

The damaged products produced by free radicals tend to accumulate over time and are a major reason why elderly females have a higher incidence of chronic diseases. Reactive oxygen species or free radicals often react with polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are part of biological membranes. The location is usually at the unsaturated double bond.  The effect of this chemical reaction is an alteration in the cell’s plasma membrane structure. The result of free radical attack is an increase in permeability to many substances. Free radical damage results in a change in membrane fluidity and an altered receptor alignment. Free radicals also cause the release of inflammatory mediators.

The oxidized or modified lipoproteins, being lipid-soluble, are diffusible and are able to travel throughout the body. Their distribution allows the original damage caused by free radicals to spread beyond the site of original attack. Diseases such as atherosclerosis, colon cancer and certain brain disorders can be traced to earlier attacks in other locations.

 

Antioxidants

In order for lipid peroxidation, or any other form of oxidative stress to occur, there must be enough free radical scavengers. In the presence of scavengers and antioxidant enzyme systems, the free radicals are quenched before they can inflict oxidative damage. The Athlete’s Diet recommends an army of antioxidants in its diet. Many are found in everyday colorful foods while others are supplied in selected herbal and nutritional supplements.

Antioxidants are small molecules that act as scavengers of free radicals and prevent them from causing cellular damage. Antioxidant enzyme systems include glutathione peroxidase, catalase and superoxide dismutase.  They act in concert to neutralize free radicals. Aging results in a decrease in antioxidant protection. In fact, it can be argued  that aging itself is caused by this decrease. In addition, the loss of antioxidant protection contributes to the increased risk of developing cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and immune dysfunction seen with aging.

Nutritional antioxidants are vitamin E (tocopherols), vitamin C (ascorbic acid), beta-carotene and the mineral selenium. There are minimum guidelines that have been established for these nutrients. The broader non-nutritional antioxidants, which have no established minimum daily requirements include the flavonoids, a diverse group of chemicals derived from pigmented plants. Flavonoids are compounds that were once previously designated as vitamin P. Flavones (quercetin), isoflavones (from soybeans), flavonones (naringen, hesperiden, and rutin from citrus fruits), anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins (red, purple and blue pigments) and flavononols (catechins, polyphenpols) are all considered part of the flavonoid family.  he Athlete’s Diet favors minute quantities of a variety of diverse flavonoid antioxidants, over a single, high dose of any one.  Since biological systems produce a spectrum of reactive free radicals, an assortment of synergistic antioxidants are recommended. These supplements should be taken on a daily basis to provide preventive insurance against the wide-ranging and ravaging effects of free radicals.

Plant-Derived Medicines

Fatty acids, volatile oils, alkaloids and saponins are important plant constituents. Other botanical compounds include antioxidants, tannins, glycosides, iridosides, isoflavones, flavonoids and curcuminoids.

Phytosterols

Phytosterols are plant steroids that are lipid soluble compounds. Like human steroids, sterols have the ability to cross cell membranes due to their solubility. Sterol compounds when attached to sugar molecules are termed glycosides.  In many cases the glycoside is the active form of the phytochemical. Steroids are compounds that contain a backbone of four carbon-ring structures. Phytosterols are similarly constructed but contain five carbon rings.

 

Alkaloids

Alkaloids are a diverse group of organic compounds that contain nitrogen and exhibit alkaline activity. While steroids are restricted to four attached cyclic carbon groups and strerols limited to five, alkaloids are capable of assuming many complex combinations. Certain alkaloids mimic natural neurotransmitters or interact with membrane receptors.

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