The science of REDOX homeostasis and the benefit to the body are just beginning to become known to high-performance athletes and the general public.

REDOX refers to chemical reactions known as REDuction and OXidation reactions. Exercise is known to increase redox reactions. This isn’t inherently ‘bad’. In fact, REDOX is a necessary part of fitness and health (i.e. physiological adaptation). But also environmental factors increase REDOX reactions including pollution, lifestyle choices, dehydration, UVA, heat and especially stress.

Too much training, or a gross imbalance between the stimulus (training load) and recovery (rest and diet), can significantly upset redox balance and push the athlete into a fatigued, maladapted state with underperformance. Such a state may result in injury if prolonged or the spike in Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) is considerable and significant stress occurs. 

This stress can come in various forms. For example, psychological stress, competition stress, dietary stress, heat stress, infection, and trauma are all well recognized in altering REDOX. In addition, REDOX is significantly altered in disease states, whether these are chronic diseases reflective of poor lifestyle choices (e.g. cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity), or autoimmune inflammatory diseases. A well-recognized condition in which redox can be grossly disturbed is chronic fatigue syndrome.

The human body works to maintain a state of REDOX balance (homeostasis), primarily through the endogenous activity of antioxidant enzymes in the body, and the food-derived exogenous antioxidants (what we eat, how much of it, how often and its metabolism by the gut).

In order to shift redox balance in the desired direction, knowledge of the factors known to cause significant disturbances in redox homeostasis are required. Examples of countermeasures could include a reduction in athlete training load, changes to dietary patterns, sleep hygiene advice, and the management of psychological and social stressors.

As to REDOX diet, studies have shown large variations in the content of antioxidants were observed in different foods and food categories. The food groups spices and herbs, nuts and seeds, berries, and fruit and vegetables all contained foods with very high antioxidant contents.

Analyzing the content of redox-active compounds (ie, antioxidants) in foods consumed in the United States show that most food categories contained products almost devoid of antioxidants. Of the 50 food products highest in antioxidant concentrations, 13 were spices, 8 were in the fruit and vegetables category, 5 were berries, 5 were chocolate-based, 5 were breakfast cereals, and 4 were nuts or seeds.

On the basis of typical serving sizes, blackberries, walnuts, strawberries, artichokes, cranberries, brewed coffee, raspberries, pecans, blueberries, ground cloves, grape juice, and unsweetened baking chocolate were at the top of the ranked list.

A healthy REDOX diet would consist of a balanced diet that’s rich in plant-based foods especially citrus fruits and berries for people wanting to boost their antioxidant levels.

The food categories containing products with the lowest antioxidant contents were fats and oils; meat, meat products, and substitutes; poultry and poultry products, fish and seafood, and egg and egg dishes. These would be avoided.