The relationship between training, recovery and growth is undeniable. Intense workouts break down muscle tissue, while proper rest and nutrition rebuild the muscle, causing a slight increase in size, which is known as muscle hypertrophy. Repeated workouts without adequate rest and
nutrition result in stunted muscle growth, exhaustion and eventually illness, due to a weakened immune system. Many bodybuilders no doubt never reach their full potential due to setbacks caused by fatigue and illness. The longer you're unable to lift, the longer it takes just to
get back to where you left off, let alone make progress.
Fortunately, science continues to discover nutrients essential to recovery and immune system maintenance. Carbohydrate is one example of a recovery nutrient, which is the reason bodybuilders frequently take in high-carbohydrate meals and supplements following a workout. Nutrients such as arginine, brewer's years, max-EPA fish oil, canola oil, vitamin C, vitamin F and the newly discovered "phytochemicals" have all been linked to boosting the immune system, which enables you to continue progressing with muscle growth uninterrupted by frequent illness.
Most of these nutrients have been widely publicized. Enter glutathione. Most people have never heard of it, and yet it considered the central antioxidant in the body. An antioxidant, according to one recognized nutritional authority, 'can help prevent or minimize oxidation stress in the body" The oxidative stress it combats is "a disturbance in the equilibrium status of pro- oxidant/antioxidant systems as a consequence of decreased antioxidant defenses, increased free-radical production or both."
Causes of this phenomenon include exposure to toxic chemicals, herbicides, cigarette smoke and air pollution, as well as certain diseases, traumatic injury, surgery and intense workouts. Cells respond by increasing their synthesis of nutrients, which helps contribute to the antioxidant defense system. If your food and/or supplement intake is inadequate, however, your body may not have enough raw material to combat the oxidative stress and its subsequent damage to cells (primarily the cell's DNA, protein and lipid structure).
Obviously, muscle growth cannot occur under these conditions. This may he another reason why many people who work out constantly never seem to make any progress. A combination of overtraining, inadequate rest and inadequate nutrition results in a state of oxidative stress, from which the body can never completely recover.
Glutathione is a peptide, composed of cysteine, glutamate and glycine. It's a very effective scavenger of free radicals, which are highly reactive substances that contain unpaired electrons. Free radicals search for healthy cell DNA and then steal the electrons, which results in abnormal or damaged cells and stress to the body.
As the saying goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In the case of glutathione that weak link is cysteine, the "rate-limiting" nutrient, as researchers like to say. Ii is present in the lowest concentration, which makes glutathione production dependent on whether there's enough cysteine available.
How do you make sure your body has enough cysteine for your needs? Since cysteine is found in dietary protein, the answer would seem simple. The problem is, some protein sources provide significant amounts of cysteine while others do not. For instance, whey protein contains seven times the cysteine that casein contains. In an animal study a casein-based protein supplement did not increase tissue glutathione levels, but a whey protein did. Another study showed that whey protein stimulated the immune system to a much greater degree than did casein, egg or soy protein.
So why not just take free cysteine? While this would appear to be the logical step, it's not considered an ideal way to increase glutathione concentration. Cysteine is rapidly metabolized, and excess quantities can be toxic. Thus, a protein source that's naturally high in cysteine, such as whey protein, is considered a much better choice. Glutathione is also necessary for proper function of other antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin B, which is why it's such a key nutrient. If there's a glutathione deficiency, those vitamins cannot be recycled, as they are under normal conditions, and become of little value to the cell as an antioxidant.
To optimize your recovery while minimizing oxidative stress and maintaining optimal immune status, take the following five steps.
1. Get adequate rest after your workout.
2. Don't overstrain.
3. Eat a healthy diet.
4. Take only supplements that have been proven to work.
5. Use whey as your protein source.