Stay Healthy and Train Strong
Every Winter or Spring, I seem to get a cold or flu that keeps me on the couch for a week. This really puts a damper on my training and leaves me feeling weak for a couple of weeks afterwards. Any tips to avoid colds so I can keep training strong?
I wish I had a magic potion for this! But, instead, I’ve got 7 Tips:
- Eat well & Hydrate Every Day. Start with a good nutrition foundation. Choose whole-foods like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, dairy or soy, and healthy fats instead of processed foods and junk. They will reduce inflammation and reduce oxidative stress…both of which damage cells and make it harder to stay healthy. And, make sure you’re getting enough nutrients by including regular meals and snacks – if you skip meals and you’re malnourished, your body will use all its nutrients to simply produce enough energy rather than fortifying your immune system. And, your body needs water to function its best – dehydration will affect your training ability, your overall health, your perceived effort, and your ability to fight illnesses. Drink water throughout the day and during/after training.
- Take your supplements: vitamins, healthy fats, probiotics, Vitamins C and D, and iron (if needed). As an athlete, you simply have more nutrition needs than other people. Unfortunately, you may not be able to get in everything you need through food consistently. To stay healthy and support your body best, include a high-quality daily multivitamin. Then, take fish oil supplements to reduce bodily inflammation, and probiotics to fortify your immune system and keep your gut healthy. Next, make sure that your multivitamin includes Vitamin C and that you are getting at least 1000 IU of Vitamin D per day (in addition to sunshine). Lastly, and especially if you are female, make sure you are getting enough iron through your diet or supplements (if needed) – I’ve seen a consistent correlation between low iron status and chronic colds, flus, and even mono.
- Get enough sleep. A common denominator between non-pro competitive adult athletes? Huge demands on time. It’s easy to allow all of your responsibilities to crowd your day and decrease your hours of sleep. But, research supports that too little sleep can increase your risk of illness – so, make sleep a priority!
- Know when to train, and when to take a break. When you first begin to feel sick, it’s a good idea to cut your workouts short. Shorter workouts can actually boost your immune function, whereas long, endurance training can make it more difficult to fight off a cold. It’s usually a bad idea to “tough it out” and push through a long workout when you’re feeling lousy.
- Nip it in the bud. There are products at the pharmacy, and maybe one in your pantry that can help you fight a cold if you use them soon enough. Products like Zicam and Cold-Ease do have research to support their use in shortening the duration of a cold. If you’d like a more natural approach, try organic apple cider vinegar. It’s somewhat folk-medicine, but many people (including myself and many of my clients) swear by 2 Tbsp organic apple cider vinegar in 16 oz. water twice per day. It seems to clear out sinuses and reduce risk of a long-lasting sinus infection. Of note, you should NEVER drink vinegar straight as its high acidity can harm your esophagus, so make sure to dilute it with the water. It doesn’t taste good, so plug your nose and drink it down!
- Get outside and enjoy some personal space. Personally, I have 3 little germ factories (my children) in my household. It’s simply not possible to avoid being around running noses and coughs. But, the more everyone can get outside rather than cooped up indoors in close proximity, the more you can avoid colds. Many experts believe we get more colds in the winter simply because we’re cooped up inside together more.
- And, maybe most importantly: Wash your hands and avoid touching your face. You get sick for one reason (and one reason only): germs. Bacteria and viruses make you ill by finding a way into your body through physical contact. Since most of your contact with the world happens through your hands, washing them or using a gel sanitizer can stop germs from making the leap from contaminated surfaces to inside your body. Hand washing is especially important after riding public transportation, moving from one environment to another and before eating or preparing food. What’s more, even if your hands are relatively clean, chances are some germs will find a way to survive there. But these parasites will only compromise your health if they can get into your body…the easiest place to transmit illness is through mucous membranes such as your eyes, mouth and nose. Keep your hands away from your face and make it difficult for germs to find you.
Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to www.apexnutritionllc.com.