Chances are you have a high risk of getting a cold, flu or other wintertime ailment in the next few months. In fact, athletes can be more susceptible to sickness because they continually push their bodies to the limit. During winter you may be stuck inside more, train on shared equipment in gyms, and simply not take care care of yourself the way you should.
Nutritionally, winter is tough. There's often a reliance on comfort foods over fresh ones, a depletion in vitamin and nutrient stores like Vitamin D, an imbalance of hormones, and a risk of daily dehydration due to drier climates and reduced fluid intake. If you feel like you're on the fast track to sickness, it's time to get back to healthy habits. Reduce your risk of winter ailments with these 10 nourishing tips; and try the bonus traditional folk remedy to nip those colds in the bud.
Eat well every day. Start with a good nutrition foundation. First, choose grass-fed and organic options when possible. Also choose whole-foods like fruits and vegetables, high-quality protein sources, intact grains like oats and rice, and healthy fats over processed foods. These foods will reduce inflammation and reduce oxidative stress, both of which damage cells and make it harder to stay healthy.
Make sure you're getting enough nutrients by including regular meals and snacks. If you skip meals and become malnourished, your body will use nutrients to produce energy rather than to fortify your immune system.
More: Eat Well All Winter Long
Hydrate adequately throughout the day. Dehydration will affect your training ability, perceived effort in training, overall health, and your ability to fight illness. Even though you don't need quite as much daily hydration as you do in hot weather months, you still need to drink adequately throughout each day and while training. When training indoors, sweat rates can shoot sky-high, so aim for at least 18 to 24 fluid ounces per hour. In addition to water, try green teas and black teas.
Include a daily source of probiotics. These healthy bacteria promote higher levels of the natural virus-fighter, interferon, which is often lacking in fatigued athletes. Ever notice how some endurance athletes are sick more often than "less-healthy" individuals who don't exercise nearly as much? With endurance training, many athletes cross the line from improving health with exercise to hurting it, in some areas anyway.
One area of suppression is the immune system, and specifically interferons, which are proteins made and released by cells in response to the presence of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, parasites and tumor cells. Studies have shown an increase in interferons in fatigued athletes with the supplementation of healthy bacteria, and thereby a decrease in illnesses such as respiratory infections and mononucleosis.
You can get probiotics, or healthy gut bacteria, from a good-quality yogurt, kefir, kombucha, fermented foods and drinks, probiotic fortified foods, and supplements.