"Oxidative stress, the amount of present free radicals or the inverse antioxidant level, measures the ability of cells to absorb or release electrons. This is important because of molecules commonly referred to as free radicals. Free radicals are a byproduct of oxidation - the process of burning oxygen as part of the body's normal function. Free radicals have an extra unpaired electron. Since electrons prefer to remain paired, free radicals literally scavenge other molecules and "steal" an electron to make themselves complete. This damages previously healthy molecules, and leaves them less able to perform their designated tasks.
The body produces natural antioxidants to minimize free radical damage. These important nutrients give up an electron so it can pair up with an unpaired electron before damage is done. The process of donating or accepting electrons is called oxidation and reduction, or "redox." Redox potential indicates the amount of electrons available in a fluid that is being tested, and represents overall electron activity. The more available electrons the better.
Our ability to produce antioxidants internally decreases as we age and is also hampered by unhealthy environmental factors and lifestyle choices. High oxidative stress weakens the immune system and makes the body more susceptible to illness and disease. It also causes premature aging if the body cannot keep up with the free radical activity, as the damage accumulates and hastens chronic degeneration.
It is widely accepted that free radical damage from oxidation is part of every disease process known to humankind. For this same reason, many degenerative diseases such as cancer, arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cataracts and etc. are linked to the effects of free radicals." - The Wellness Prescription: Dr. Ryan Bently
So what does this mean to the triathlete? A LOT, if you heart rate train I have found oxidation raises my resting heart rate and starts to erode my base. Meaning I can not run as far without feeling adverse affects. Also what athletes in general don't understand is that we use a tremendous amount of oxygen. That is all we work on, VO2 max, becoming efficient in the processing and burning of oxygen. We use the most oxygen, ergo we could be some of the most highly oxidized people on the planet. A large percent of marathoners that die from cardiovascular accidents actually have normal cholesterol. Studies now show that it is not cholesterol, but oxidized cholesterol that makes it sticky and causes us trouble.
Being oxidized also accelerates the aging process. So if you are vain like me:-), that means you get more winkles faster.;-) Seriously though who wants to look died up and out, who wants their cholesterol sticking together and causing atherosclerosis? Who wants there athletic performance hampered?
In conclusion it is very important for athletes to know if they are oxidized, and if they are what to do. Oxidation will affect, energy production, stickiness of cells, free radical damage and risk of predisposition of aforementioned diseases. How do you get rid of oxidation? Antioxidants, dark leafy greens, avoiding sugar, and processed foods. The more processed a food is the less your body can use it.