MoN Know-how

Besser ernähren - effektiver trainieren: Kostenlose Webinare, Blogs & Videos mit Top-Experten!

Antioxidants: Why the radical scavengers are particularly important for athletes


General: Antioxidants & Free Radicals in the Body

Anyone who trains wants to get better. So in training, your basic goal is to provoke certain adaptations in your body in response to a training stimulus which can be controlled by modifying training volume and/or intensity.

For this, a small change – let’s call it controlled oxidation – is necessary to control cellular processes.

Uncontrolled oxidation, on the other hand, results in oxidative stress and an increased formation of free radicals in the body.

The reason for this is the increase in oxygen turnover in the respiratory chain during intense physical exercise. This leads to inflammatory reactions. When free radicals increase due to a chain reaction, they damage cell structures, proteins and nucleic acids.

Oxidative stress is also caused by external influences such as cigarette smoke, environmental toxins or UV radiation from the sun.

Thanks to our body’s own protective system, free radicals are fought by the body’s own radical scavengers. These endogenous radical scavengers are called antioxidants or the antioxidant enzyme system. So they’re kind of like our body’s protective police and they look out for you.

Vitamins B2, C and E are so-called antioxidant vitamins as well as beta-carotene (precursor of vitamin A).

A good example of this is the cut apple: if you sprinkle the apple slices with lemon juice (vitamin C), the apple retains its natural color and does not turn brown due to the oxidation that occurs in the air.

Not only individual vitamins, but also minerals such as selenium and zinc are part of the well-functioning protective system of the body.

Sport as an antioxidant: the dose is crucial

The good news is that exercise can also act as an antioxidant. Continuous endurance training adapted to one’s fitness level boosts the body’s own enzyme production, which can then dispose of free radicals.

In addition, regular training promotes endurance, which means that the workout intensity is lower for trained people than for untrained people. Thus, oxidative stress can be avoided by paying attention to your regeneration as well as by adapting your training to suit your own fitness level!

That is why athletes – provided they rest after intense sessions and counteract the stress in their cells by adopting healthy eating habits – are less likely to fall ill due to oxidative stress, which can lead to infections.

But especially after intensive sessions, the oxidative stress for your body is high, which is why at this point you should take particularly good care of yourself. See below to find out how to support your body in this regard.

How can I get enough antioxidants as an athlete?

The safest and healthiest way is a balanced diet with vegetables and fruits, which are rich in antioxidant active substances.

Sports nutrition should also be rich in antioxidants to prevent infections in the best possible way.

Currently, there is no clear scientific statement on whether the preventive intake of antioxidants can better protect the cell membrane from free radicals.

If prophylactic administration is desired, 4 mg beta-carotene, 100 mg vitamin C and 23-100 mg vitamin E are currently recommended. A multivitamin preparation should be the preferred option – but discuss this with your doctor first.

What foods are rich in antioxidants?

The antioxidant vitamins A (precursor: beta-carotene), B2, C and E are well covered by the normal diet. Since many of these substances are found directly under the skin of fruit and veg, it is recommended to eat the skin as well if possible.

In principle, good sources of vitamins are fresh fruits, vegetables, salads and whole grain products.

Our carbohydrate drinks SLOW CARB and FAST CARB for example, are particularly rich in natural antioxidants. SLOW CARB contains real sour cherry powder. Sour cherries have high content of vitamin A (retinol), vitamin B1 and B2, C and E.

FAST CARB contains the natural antioxidant raspberry. Raspberries are particularly rich in provitamin A, vitamin B and vitamin C.

Below you can find a short overview of vitamins and the foods which contain an increased amount.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is present in many plant foods. Thus, the daily requirement is easily met with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Rosehips (1250mg vitamin C per 100g) and black currants (177 mg vitamin C per 100g) are considered particularly rich in vitamin C. Further, vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, kiwi, sea buckthorn, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, parsley, potatoes and cabbage.

What should be mentioned here is that vitamin C is sensitive to heat and light. This means that long periods of keeping food warm should be avoided and that fruits and vegetables may also be eaten as raw vegetables. Ideally also well washed and not peeled.

SLOW CARB HEAT also contains vitamin C due to the lemon fruit powder.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is found only in animal foods: Liver, tuna, dairy products (cheese), butter and egg yolk.

The precursor of vitamin A beta-carotene is found in plant foods: Carrots, spinach, lettuce, peppers, pumpkin and apricots.

The advantage of beta-carotene is that its conversion to vitamin A is limited and is based on the body’s needs. Thus, in case of oversupply (e.g. by supplements), the conversion can be down-regulated.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is found primarily in fat-rich plants and therefore well absorbed through oils such as wheat germ oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, corn oil and soybean oil. Hazelnuts, Almonds and Peanuts are also good sources of vitamin E.

Note: The fat-soluble vitamins A and E are only absorbed by the presence of fat in the body. If you sauté carrots briefly and add a little olive oil on top, it’s a great way to improve absorption in the body.

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

Broccoli, spinach, asparagus and kale are rich in vitamin B2. Since riboflavin is one of the water-soluble vitamins, it is recommended to include the cooking water in the dish.

Furthermore, the following foods have a high content of vitamin B2: cheese (especially whey cheese, Camembert, mountain cheese and Emmental), liver, eggs, wheat germ and yeast.

Antioxidant micronutrients

Beef, poultry, pork, fish, cheese and eggs are good sources of zinc. Selenium is found in particular in tuna, Brazil nuts and coconut.

Also mentioned should be the POWER CARB HEAT which contains coconut water powder.


Polyphenols are found exclusively in plants and belong to the secondary plant substances. They have an antioxidant effect.

Here matcha is a good way to absorb polyphenols. Matcha is a ground green tea – you can find more information about this special tea in this article. And: We set specifically high standards on matcha in our GEL 40.

When and how much antioxidants should I take as an athlete?

The best way to get enough antioxidants: A balanced diet with an emphasis on staple foods and fresh fruits and vegetables.

If you are unsure if your vitamin supply is adequate, first contact a physician or qualified nutritionist to determine possible deficiencies via blood work or nutrition plan.

Finally, buying vitamin supplements is (usually) only recommended when there is an unbalanced diet. If there is no way around supplementation, the maximum amount must not be exceeded. This is because high doses can have a prooxidant effect – the opposite of an antioxidant effect. In addition, certain supplements can prevent the (desired) adaptations in the athlete’s body.

The right time for antioxidants is whenever they fit well into your daily routine. Since vegetables and fruits bring fiber with them, it is recommended here to eat them not to close before a workout or preferably after intensive units. Above all, the best time to absorb a lot of antioxidants is on rest days.

At the end of the (training) day, it’s important that you plan your nutrition just as well as your training itself, because you can’t have one without the other. A good recovery shake can help reduce oxidative stress afterwards. For example our RECOVERY SHAKE contains real cocoa, which contains valuable antioxidants.

So be aware that intense physical exertion increases the formation of free radicals. Therefore make sure to eat a diet rich in vitamins (through fruits and vegetables), especially during periods of high-intensity exertion.

Raschka, C. & Ruf, S. (2022). Sport und Ernährung. Wissenschaftlich basierte Empfehlungen, Tipps und Ernährungspläne für die Praxis.
Verbraucherzentrale (2022). Antioxidantien: Helfer gegen freie Radikale.

More interesting active ingredients


Scroll to top

Do you already know our MoN sports nutrition?

🌱 Only natural ingredients
🔝 Used daily by top athletes
🎁 Code BOX2023 for 20% off on MoN Tasting Box