Keep your Immune System Healthy and Keep Working out this Winter
Exercise is good for you, right? Well, it’s good for building muscle, strengthening your cardiovascular system and keeping your bones strong. When it comes to your immune system, though, it’s surprisingly a different story.
Intense exercise can place your immune system under stress, which can impact immune system function. Combine that with a higher prevalence of infection-spreading germs during the winter months which can lead to time spent under the doona rather than pumping iron.
When exercising, the physical exertion makes your body produce stress hormones. This added stress lowers your immune system while exercising and for 24 hours after, it’s at this time your body needs some extra care.
There are some steps you can take to alleviate this, such as eating a carbohydrate or protein recovery snack to help reverse the stress hormone response more quickly. Longer term, you want to look at building a strong immune system to combat infection, so you can keep exercising to achieve your physical goals.
Our dietary tips for an exercise-filled, sniffle-free winter are:
Get your greens
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables for their antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Vegetables, particularly uncooked, contain vitamin C, such as tomatoes, capsicum and broccoli, to name a few. Vitamin C has been shown to help support immune health. Two pieces of fruit and five servings of vegetables per day are recommended as a minimum.
Get going with glutamine
Glutamine has an important function in immune health and levels can be depleted after periods of prolonged training. Supplementing your glutamine reserves after a workout may lend a helping hand.
Zinc is an important mineral with many enzymatic reactions in the body. It helps support a healthy immune system, helps the body to metabolise proteins and assists with minor healing. Eating foods containing zinc such as meat, seafood, nuts and legumes regularly will keep your dietary intake up.
Iron isn’t just necessary for carrying oxygen around our body as part of red blood cells, it’s also an important for the normal function of your immune system. Iron is plentiful in red meat, well absorbed even though in lesser amounts from seafood, in white meats, legumes and green leafy vegetables.
Pull the protein punch
Adequate protein is needed for cellular growth and repair and immune cell formation. It is recommended to consume approximately 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, depending on your exercise goals.
Keeping up with the carbohydrates
Carbohydrate foods help maintain energy and cause a release of insulin when eaten post exercise, which can help reduce the stress hormone levels produced during exercise particularly when consumed with some protein. Choose unrefined carbohydrates – fruit or wholegrain bread, brown rice, legumes or dairy provide much more bang for your buck than a bag of lollies. A smoothie with some fruit, yoghurt and protein powder could do the trick.
Know your H2O
Keeping well hydrated is last but not least. Our body is around 70% water, so maintaining the equilibrium of water with electrolytes in the blood is vital. As a rule of thumb, urine should be the colour of straw in general. Even 2% dehydration can disrupt cognitive function, (concentration and decision making. Aim to drink at least 2 litres of water per day day. If your exercising drink water before, during and after exercise.