How to Keep Your Glutathione Up with Exercise and Recovery

Written by: Detrick Snyder

Glutathione, your Master Antioxidant

Your master antioxidant, glutathione, is endogenous - meaning it’s not an antioxidant you take as a supplement, it’s one that your body makes (see more in our last post). 

However, making sure you have enough isn’t just about eating the best building blocks of glutathione. Having enough glutathione is also about minimizing triggers for chronic inflammation and oxidative stress in the first place, and then giving your body a chance to manage its own antioxidant and anti-inflammatory responses. 

The recommendations to be healthy always come down to lifestyle, diet and exercise - enhancing your antioxidant system is no different. So let’s go a bit deeper on the science-backed tips for keeping your master antioxidant in good shape.


You know how difficult it can be to get amped up to exercise sometimes? Just thinking about how much you’re about to work your muscles and joints and how sore you’re about to be is enough to make you want to pull the covers tight and stay in bed. 

Let’s not kid ourselves, the pain after an intense workout is a clear sign of oxidative stress and inflammation - so how does something that very obviously creates damage also lead to higher glutathione levels? 

Lets break this down. Exercise leads to oxidative stress. But, exercise leads to higher glutathione and antioxidant status. A lack of exercise, also known as being sedentary, leads to lower glutathione status. So what’s going on here? Shouldn’t I be better off not damaging my muscles in the first place?

The reason why exercise can lead to better antioxidative capacity is in a principle called hormesis

Hormesis is the idea that “a little bit of a bad thing can be a good thing”. It’s when something that causes initial damage creates a positive response that more than accounts for the damage. Supercompensation is another term for it in the athletic training field.  This is how chemicals in plants can create a healthy nitric oxide response, leading to vein flexibility and better heart health. This is how your body positively adapts to appropriate levels of damage. 

Hormesis is the process behind resilience.  I don’t know about you, but that sounds like one of the most important things for every person on the planet!

Look at the generalized chart below. See how glutathione levels are higher after exercise? Compare that to the sedentary response, where no inflammatory trigger leads to… well, nothing.

No exercise = no recovery = no adaptation. Gives you some perspective on the phrase “No pain, no gain”, doesn’t it?

You don’t see the benefits of exercise by looking at one time...

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