Hard training regimens or the recent completion of endurance events place athletes at an increased risk for contracting minor illnesses and/or infections, with the most common being upper respiratory tract infections. Other factors such as malnutrition, inadequate sleep, mental stress, and environmental exposure to infectious viruses also increase the risk of becoming sick – and no one wants to perform poorly or miss events because of an illness. So how can we stay healthy?
Several nutritional supplements on the market claim to boost immune function. Unfortunately, these claims tend to be based on findings in animal studies or in hospitalized patients, not in athletes – and therefore we should be cautious about taking them in the hopes of boosting our immune system. (I promise a follow-up to this post at another time providing evidence, or lack there of for some of the “immune enhancing” supplements marketed towards athletes). However, consuming a healthy, balanced diet and following some other commonsense guidelines are probably all we need to reduce our susceptibility to illness. Here are some helpful strategies:
- Consume a well-balanced diet that provides adequate amounts of required vitamins and minerals as well as phytochemicals (i.e. – consume a variety of fruits and vegetables daily)
- Consume adequate amounts of fluid, carbs, protein, and fat.
- Do not share water bottles, utensils, etc with others.
- Keep other stress to a minimum
- GET ADEQUATE SLEEP!
Lately, I have not been following the last piece of advice. Sunday and Monday nights were late nights in order to unpack from a camping trip and then pack up for a trip to Boston. Tuesday night was spent catching up with my mother and sister. Wednesday night, watching the Bruins win the Stanley Cup. And last night, ended up being a late night gym session. This lack of sleep is certainly starting to take its toll on me…and thus on my workouts. And even the best diet cannot substitute for lack of rest. I hope you all use the weekend to get appropriate amounts of sleep and try to carry that over to next week as well! 🙂 Check back on Monday for a TRULY fast recipe idea!