I had the opportunity to hear a lecture by Dr. Ken Cooper at the Cooper Institute in Dallas recently. As you may know he coined the term “aerobics” in the late 60’s and was very influential in promoting running and other aerobic exercise to improve the health of the common man. Although most of Dr. Cooper’s research revolves around health and fitness for the average person he has also done a great deal of research with elite athletes over the years.
One thing he shared that I thought might be worth passing on is this: There is more and more evidence that elite endurance athletes put themselves at risk of DNA damage when they train intensely for over 30 miles per week or participate in lengthy endurance events (marathon and up). He cited a long list of athletes who have had various cancers and other life threatening illnesses during…or shortly after their prime. His recommendation for those who train and compete at this level is to increase your anti-oxidant intake when you are training and competing at this level. Marathoners who increased their anti-oxidant intake during build-up and after the event for two weeks show much less damage at the cellular level.
Although supplements may be needed the best source is fruits and vegetables. He warned that athletes need to research their supplements carefully as the vitamin and supplement industry is unregulated and we never really know what is in the pill we are taking….it could be sawdust. Another important message was to reduce transfats in your diet to the lowest level possible…even if you are trim and think you are burning them off they are doing you harm.