First of all, what is immunity?
It is the body’s ability to defend itself against pathogens and agents foreign to the body, in particular viruses, bacteria, parasites, etc. Several organs and lines of defense are involved in the immune response, including the skin, mucous membranes and the respiratory tract. However, did you know that 70% of immune cells are found in the digestive system?
As an athlete, are you more at risk?
In fact, yes and no! Studies show that active people tend to be less sick, but when they are, like elite athletes, the consequences are greater, since performance is at stake.
Here are some simple and practical tips to boost your immune system and train in good health:
A. Wash your hands frequently!
Nothing is more effective to protect against infectious diseases, we now know very well. You must be vigilant before handling food or eating. You can use an alcohol-based disinfectant or disinfectant cloths on the go, but washing with hot water and soap is still the most effective way to kill as many pathogens as possible.
B. Eat Key Foods!
Several micronutrients are known to optimize the immune system, including zinc, selenium, magnesium, iron, copper, folic acid and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E. In general, the more fruits and vegetables are dark and colorful, the more they contain these polyphenols and flavonoids which help the body to defend itself better. Also incorporate alliates such as onion, garlic, cabbage, leek and shallots. Citrus fruits et les strawberries, kiwis, tomatoes, red peppers and broccoli are excellent sources of vitamin C, among others. Zinc and magnesium in oysters, nuts and seeds, beef, chicken and legumes are also great choices.
C. Take a vitamin D supplement
Nicknamed the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D plays several important physiological roles, including with respect to immunity and bone and muscle mass. In Canada, between the months of October and April, our bodies are unable to capture UVB rays from the sun, which allow us to synthesize this important vitamin in sufficient quantities. In addition, very few people achieve the recommended intake through diet. Studies have shown that very active people and high performance athletes are particularly at risk. They should therefore consider supplementing vitamin D, consuming fortified products like milk, chocolate milk, soy drinks, yogurt, lots of oily fish, and adding extra vitamin D. The other option is to train further south, but beware, sunscreen and clothing also block UVB rays! It will therefore be necessary to expose yourself for 15 minutes without sunscreen before applying generous layers.
D. Incorporate the probiotics
To fully understand the principle of action of probiotic bacteria, you must first know that 100,000 billion bacteria, belonging to 400 different species, each with their own characteristics, already inhabit our intestines. Probiotics are the body’s good bacteria and they make up what is called “the gut microbiota”. Probiotics are mainly present in the intestine and help regulate intestinal health, improve digestion, strengthen immune functions and fight certain pathogens. They are found naturally in yogurt, cheese, and fermented products like kefir, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Capsule or liquid supplements are sometimes necessary, but validate your needs with your sports nutritionist.
E. Carbohydrates for better recovery
During prolonged workouts (over 1.5 hours), get into the habit of consuming carbohydrates regularly through sports drinks or high carbohydrate snacks. Carbohydrate intake during prolonged efforts greatly reduces the risk of getting sick. Carbohydrates help to minimize the rise in the stress hormone cortisol, which is secreted during exertion, and prevent the rise of several inflammatory markers of immunity. We can thus understand the importance of consuming carbohydrates after long and intense efforts!
Sleep is often the “neglected” part of everyday life for athletes, but it remains essential for your immune system. Impossible ? Take 15 to 20 minute naps to allow your body to recover.
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