Antioxidant requirements have neither been defined for endurance nor been defined for ultra-endurance athletes. To verify whether an acute bout of ultra-endurance exercise modifies the need for nutritive antioxidants, we aimed (1) to investigate the changes of endogenous and exogenous antioxidants in response to an Ironman triathlon; (2) to particularise the relevance of antioxidant responses to the indices of oxidatively damaged blood lipids, blood cell compounds and lymphocyte DNA and (3) to examine whether potential time-points of increased susceptibility to oxidative damage are associated with alterations in the antioxidant status. Blood that was collected from forty-two well-trained male athletes 2 d pre-race, immediately post-race, and 1, 5 and 19 d later was sampled. The key findings of the present study are as follows: (1) Immediately post-race, vitamin C, α-tocopherol, and levels of the Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity, the ferric reducing ability of plasma and the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) assays increased significantly. Exercise-induced changes in the plasma antioxidant capacity were associated with changes in uric acid, bilirubin and vitamin C. (2) Significant inverse correlations between ORAC levels and indices of oxidatively damaged DNA immediately and 1 d post-race suggest a protective role of the acute antioxidant responses in DNA stability. (3) Significant decreases in carotenoids and γ-tocopherol 1 d post-race indicate that the antioxidant intake during the first 24 h of recovery following an acute ultra-endurance exercise requires specific attention. Furthermore, the present study illustrates the importance of a diversified and well-balanced diet to maintain a physiological antioxidant status in ultra-endurance athletes in reference to recommendations.
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