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How Glutathione affects sports performance and recovery time

Strength training, muscle fatigue, aerobics and all other forms of fitness are a great way to keep the body in shape. A healthy diet and keeping track of nutritional facts won't hurt either, especially as a person gets older and his metabolism slows down.

Getting older brings along the added perk of becoming wiser, hopefully making better decisions, and enjoying new family members and friends. But along with a lower metabolism, there are other occasional downsides that happen as the body continues to change.

One of the biggest downsides is that the body's natural glutathione (GSH) levels decrease with age at a rate of 1 percent per year after age 20. GSH is the body's master antioxidant, a small protein that's produced naturally in the cells to fight off deadly toxins, chronic illness and keep a productive immune system.

With a lowered immune system, people become more receptive to illnesses, such as Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, asthma, autism, autoimmune diseases, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic infections, diabetes, heart diseases, HIV/AIDS, kidney issues, liver disease and Parkinson's disease.

As odd as it may sound, strenuous exercise can also put people at risk for lower GSH rates because of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress and damage while exercising affects the rate of damage to lipids and DNA. Severe or lengthy exercise routines can overwhelm antioxidant defenses, which affect vitamin E and C and thiol antioxidant rates. High-intensity workouts may affect the antioxidant defense system in the worst way.

Continuous exercise is a must for keeping the body in shape. But work schedules often predict what kind of fitness routine people are involved in. Workers who sit at a desk all day eating junk food and processed food all week are already at a disadvantage.

Those same people may try to counterbalance that bad diet by going full throttle on exercise every weekend — weekend warriors. While it may initially seem like a good idea to squeeze in a workout whenever time permits, it can be stressful on the entire body by Monday morning, especially for a person who is involved in heavy running, lifting and other strenuous workouts without proper training.

The same can be said for those people who work out nonstop and tire themselves out. It's no coincidence that advice from licensed health professionals are common before doing something new. Completing a high-intensity workout can be as hard on the body as someone who occasionally works out if the body is not treated carefully after the workout is over.

Ingesting foods that are rich in antioxidants is step one of balancing out the risks of a lower GSH. With a healthy level of GSH after strenuous exercise, a fitness guru (or even a beginner) can maintain muscle growth, improve athletic performance, lower muscle fatigue and exhaustion, develop a better cardiovascular function, reduce lactic acid, protect against body injuries, lower inflammation, heighten stamina and endurance, and speed up recovery time.

Of course no one looks forward to injuries. However, any time strenuous exercise comes into play the risk of fitness injuries becomes more of a possibility. With higher glutathione levels, the healing process is much easier and quicker.

Unlike job salaries and hours worked, glutathione levels just aren't one of those topics that are up for negotiation. Without it, energy levels fall and small injuries may lead to bigger injuries. Falls in the plasma glutamine level are noticeably lowered after endurance events (example: marathon running) and prolonged workouts (example: weight lifting or high-intensity aerobics).

People with untreated diabetes, cancerous patients and those suffering from HIV/AIDS at any age are also at an increased risk for lower glutathione rates. But exercise is even recommended for this group. Keeping glutathione levels at their highest level without overdoing it can make or break the survival rate for those with serious diseases.

Fitness levels and strenuous activity levels aren't cut and dry. What may be tough on one person may be easy on another. Glutathione levels are similar in that way. There is no set age where glutathione is at its absolute lowest, but through proper diet and sufficient exercise, your optimum level of glutathione has a better chance of surviving longer.