Illness in Athletes - 5 Tips to Boost Immunity
We all suffer from colds and other illnesses from time to time, but research shows that athletes are more susceptible to illness than those who don’t exercise. There’s nothing worse than being laid up in bed with no energy to train, especially when it’s in the middle of a season or right before an important game. We've put together a handful of tips to try and boost your immune system and cut the amount of time spent out of action with illness.
Whilst most people tend to believe that cold and wet weather cause illness, athletes tend to be at most risk in the build-up to big competitions and events. As the training load and intensity increases and the mental stress and pressures to perform well begin to mount, athletes’ immune systems can become weakened. Even a mild infection or illness can massively impair performance so it’s vital that athletes do all they can to stay healthy and good nutrition is key.
Although there’s not one specific food or nutrient related to the immune system, it's widely agreed that a varied and balanced diet will help to keep you healthy. Make sure every meal contains a good source of protein, carbohydrates and plenty of fruit and veg. Don’t forget to include essential fats in there as well, such as nuts, seeds and dairy products and limit the amount of processed foods you eat.
Deficiency in various different nutrients can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of illness. Fruit and vegetables are high in loads of different immunity-boosting nutrients. Make sure you’re getting your 5-a-day and eat plenty of different kinds too. Aim for a colourful plate and you'll easily tick this off!
Eating a carbohydrate-rich meal before and after a big workout will prevent your glycogen stores from becoming depleted which is known to increase stress hormones and suppress immune function. Don’t forget to include a good protein source as well to replenish those tired muscles and keep your immune system in tip-top condition.
Not consuming enough calories is a sure-fire way to increase your chances of illness. Energy restriction combined with intense training will greatly increase stress hormones, like cortisol, in the body as well as increasing the chances of vitamin deficiencies. Both of which will ultimately end up in a weaker immune system and more time ill.
Because we can’t always prevent illness and infection, knowing what to do when we’re feeling under the weather is key to reducing time spent on the sidelines. Vitamin C has been found to reduce the incidence and duration of colds in athletes. So remember to reach for that glass of orange juice to help your body fight off infection when you’re feeling run down.
PRO-TEEN may also be a convenient source of vitamin C and other immune-boosting vitamins and minerals whenever whole foods aren't available.