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Sun Apr 22, 2007 2:00 pm

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Location: Chico, CA

From Tom Fahey's Supplement Research Column in Muscular Development Magazine and Fitness RX for Men

Nietzsche and Conan the Barbarian said, “Anything that does not kill us makes us stronger.” This certainly applies to exercise because intense training disturbs body balance (homeostasis) and triggers inflammation. In response, the body gets stronger so that the exercise is less stressful in the future. While adaptation to exercise is positive, the stress can suppress the immune system. Also, chronic, excessive exercise (overtraining) slows progress in the exercise program. Blood markers of intense training include increases in cortisol (stress hormone), TBARS (marker of oxidative damage), interleukin-6 (IL-6, a chemical that helps fight trauma), and neutrophils (white blood cells that fight infection). Cortisol is important in blood sugar and blood pressure regulation and the inflammatory response to disease, stress, and injury but high levels suppress the immune system, which increase the risk of colds and flu. It can also slow the response to exercise training by promoting muscle and bone breakdown and interfere with carbohydrate metabolism. British scientists found that supplementing the diet with 1000 mg of vitamins C and 400 IU of vitamin E per day for 4-weeks reduced cortisol levels after intense exercise (2.5 hours cycling at 60 % effort) but had no effects on other measures of immunity. Vitamins C an E can reduce some of the negative effects of intense exercise but cannot completely protect against immune system depression. Proper program design – balancing intense training with adequate rest – and a good diet containing adequate calories are the best protection against over training induced suppression of the immune system and illnesses that will interfere with training gains.
(Medicine Science Sports Exercise 39: 645-652, 2007)

Thomas Fahey
Dept Kinesiology
California State University, Chico
Chico, CA 95929-0330

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