Eating right matters most when endurance athletes reach the peak of their training. To ensure you're taking in ample nutrients and dietary fiber, Andrew Weil, M.D., founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, says to include plenty of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich food sources in your daily meals and snacks. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, seafood, healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocados, olive and canola oil), whole soy foods, cooked Asian mushrooms, herbs and spices, and tea, as well as red wine and dark chocolate (both in moderation). During a hard run, adds Dr. Ross, drink a carbohydrate beverage. And in the first hour after a workout or race, he suggests drinking a recovery beverage that has carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates slow the release of stress hormones; protein stimulates white blood cell counts, which shield against upper-respiratory problems.
The Critical 72 Hours
You're most vulnerable to getting sick for up to 72 hours after a race due to elevated cortisol levels. A little common sense goes a long way in keeping you well.
- Bring alcohol-based sanitizer to the race and use it before and after you run; avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
- Celebratory hugs are okay; high-fives, handshakes, and kisses are not.
- Continue to eat well, stay hydrated, and get plenty of sleep.
- Get a massage, which has been shown to increase the number of infection-fighting white blood cells in circulation.
- Avoid germ centers like the mall and kids' parties.
- If you start to feel the sniffles, try a saline nasal rinse or drape a towel over your head and lean over a bowl of steaming water for 10 minutes.
Help in a Bottle?
There is little concrete research to help guide runners interested in using supplements such as glutamine, beta-glucan, and vitamins C or D to prevent a cold. Immunologist Isaac Melamed, M.D.; sports physician Lewis G. Maharam, M.D.; and integrative-medicine specialist Andrew Weil, M.D., all say they've seen no compelling, peer-reviewed study results that lead them to recommend anything other than a well-balanced, antioxidant-rich diet.