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In sports, it's often said that defense wins games. When it comes to nutrition, antioxidants provide a powerful defense against attacking molecules called free radicals, which damage muscles through a chemical process called oxidation. Free radicals play a role in cellular and muscle inflammation; they may also lower resistance to colds, flu, cancer and heart disease.
But you can fight against free radicals. Studies have shown that the antioxidants in many fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help prevent the kind of damage they cause.
Antioxidants offer protection against oxidation damage (hence the name "anti"-oxidants), helping muscles recover faster after intense games, practices and workouts. Antioxidants also boost your immune system so you're not sidelined by sickness, causing you to miss practices, games and workouts and reversing your hard-earned training gains.
But if you want to receive these performance benefits, you have to start consuming antioxidant-rich foods and drinks on a regular basis. Consume antioxidants before and after a workout, practice or game to promote muscle recovery and reduce the risk of muscle damage. This also will help you build muscle between workouts, contributing to improved sports performance.
Below is a recipe for Antioxidant Bars, a high-calorie, nutrient-dense and antioxidant-rich food that can be consumed for breakfast or as a pre- or post-workout snack. It only takes 20 to 25 minutes to make four servings of this delicious and healthy food.
- 2 Eggs
- 1-3/4 cup Milk
- 2 tsp. Olive Oil
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 2 tsp. Cinnamon
- 2 tsp. Cocoa Powder
- 2 tsp. Honey
- 1/2 cup Raisins
- 6 Prunes
- 3 tbsp. Oatmeal
- 1/4 cup Peanuts or Almonds
- 1/4 cup Sunflower Seeds
- 1 tsp. Butter
- 2 small slices of Cheese
- 3 tbsp. Wheat Germ or Farina (optional)
In a large bowl or medium-sized pot, beat eggs in milk. Add in remaining ingredients. Cook on stove in pot with some olive oil at the bottom of the pot to prevent sticking. Stir at low heat until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Place in two cereal bowls and let cool until mixture sets.
Cut each bar in half to make four total bars. You can reheat the bars in the microwave or eat at room temperature.
In a large bowl, beat eggs in milk and add remaining ingredients. Pour into two cereal bowls. Cook in microwave for five to six minutes. Make sure to cover each bowl with a paper towel. Let cool until mixture sets.
Serving size: 1 Bar
Antioxidants: carotenoids, selenium, flavonoids, arginine, polyphenols, lignan and vitamins A, C and E
Jim Carpentier is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, a New Jersey-licensed massage therapist and a health/fitness writer. He currently serves as associate health and wellness director at the Greater Morristown YMCA in Cedar Knolls, N.J.