6 Diet Strategies to Fend Off the Flu

Power up against illnesses with a well-thought-out diet
This year's flu season: longer, faster, nastier than before. Spring brings hope, but were not out of the woods yet.

Take matters into your own mouth power up your immune system to defeat those bionic viruses. Here are six strategies you can incorporate into your training diet now to help you fend off the flu and stay on your feet until the blooms pop.

1. Get Enough Calories

Maintaining enough calories daily is critical, says Lisa Dorfman, M.S, R.D., dietician, athlete and author of The Vegetarian Sports Nutrition Guide (Wiley & Sons, 1999).

(Athletic) people feel like theyre not expending as much energy (in colder months), but they are," Dorfman says. "They expend more calories than other people because of their increased lean muscle mass. You need to get enough calories to prevent (your body from) using protein as an energy source.

Figure out your daily calorie requirement and stick with it. The average active adult needs at least 15 calories per pound of body weight and perhaps as many as 20 calories per pound, depending on training volume.

One way to up your intake, Dorfman suggests, is to eat dried fruits: Dried fruits can be a superior choice to fresh (fruit), because theyre an easy way to get a lot of calories in one source. They're portable, and are a great source of iron, which helps build your blood.

2. Don't Skimp on Protein

The immune systems chief warriors, T-cells and antibodies, are made of protein and need a constant supply to run interference. Whether you get it from animal or plant sources or both, give protein your full attention. Look to lean meats and cheeses, fish, milk, yogurt, beans, tofu and soy.

Not sure how much you need? Follow Dorfmans formula for protein-need calculation for different kinds of athletes:

1. Find your body weight.

2. Convert your weight in pounds to kilograms by taking pounds and dividing by 2.2.

3. Multiply the following numbers by your kilogram number to figure out your daily protein needs.

  • Strength athletes: kilograms x 1.2 - 1.7
  • Endurance athletes: kilograms x 1.2 - 1.4
  • Early training: kilograms x 2
  • Average active adult: RDA (Recommended dietary allowance) - kilograms x 0.8 grams

    For example: According to the formula, a 145-pound (66-kilogram) marathon runner might need between 79 and 92 grams of protein per day.

    3. Be a Colorful Eater

    Everyone knows fruits and veggies are pretty and pack tons of vitamins and minerals. But theres something else in those hues that may help you fight disease: fabulous phytos.

    Phytochemicals are naturally occurring plant chemicals that give many fruits and vegetables their color and protect them from disease. Researchers are finding that they may protect us, too.

    Phytos are being linked to the prevention of many forms of cancer, decreased risk of heart attacks and macular degeneration (a major cause of elderly blindness). There are several classes of phytochemicals, but you dont need to memorize them to get them.

    Having a palette of colors on your plate makes it more likely that youll get a full range of phytochemicals, Dorfman says. Go for deep color in your fruits and vegetables.

    Scour your market and pick the deepest-hued produce you can get your hands on.??

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