The common-sense advice your mom dispensed applies here: Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your eyes, ears, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean, get as much rest as possible and eat well. Here are eight additional ideas to keep you healthy when you're pushing your body to the limit.
Boost Your Immunity With Mushrooms1 of 9
Mushrooms are known to help support the immune system, but the ones with the greatest impact are medicinal mushrooms such as maitake, reishi, coriolus, agaracus, and shiitake. These mushrooms contain powerful compounds called beta-glucans, which are proven to help activate the immune system.
Cold-Weather Hydration Needs2 of 9
Failing to drink enough fluids is a major problem among winter athletes. Cold blunts the thirst mechanism; you'll feel less thirsty despite significant sweat loss (if you overdress), to say nothing of respiratory fluid loss. Winter athletes need to consciously consume fluids to replace the water that gets lost via breathing. When you breathe in cold, dry air, your body warms and humidifies that air. As you exhale, you lose significant amounts of water.
Use Garlic to Ward Off Colds3 of 9
Garlic is part of a phytonutrient sub-category known as allylic sulfides. It is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, immune boosting and cancer-fighting. It is truly a superfood.
For cold and flu prevention, chop up a clove of garlic and swallow the pieces without chewing. You may do this daily or several times a day, as needed. Not chewing prevents the garlic from making your breath smell, although it still burns the tongue a little on contact so swallow quickly. Garlic works immediately to kick start your immune system, both for cold prevention and a quick recovery.
Not-so-Fishy Flu Prevention4 of 9
Salmon, mackerel, herring and other fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which increase activity of phagocytes cells that fight flu by eating up bacteria, according to a study by Britain's Institute of Human Nutrition and School of Medicine. They also contain selenium, which helps white blood cells produce cytokines, proteins that help clear viruses. Other research shows that omega-3s increase airflow and protect lungs from colds and respiratory infections.
Do You Burn More Calories in the Cold?5 of 9
When the temperature is 32 degrees F or lower, it can increase your calorie needs if it's cold enough to elicit the shivering response. In colder temperatures, calorie needs are greater due to the increased work of thermogenesis, the body's temperature regulation. Shivering can increase metabolic heat production 2 to 5 times above your resting metabolic rate, increasing your calorie needs.
Bacteria That Can Keep You Healthy6 of 9
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that 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 then "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. You can get probiotics from a good-quality yogurt, kefir, kombucha, fermented foods and drinks, probiotic-fortified foods and supplements.
Warm Up Post-Workout With Hot Chocolate7 of 9
Avoid pre-packaged hot chocolate mixes, which may contain artificial ingredients and excessive amounts of sugar. Instead, make your hot chocolate from scratch with low-fat milk and melted dark chocolate, as recommended by Penny L. Wilson, a registered dietician and owner of Eating for Performance. The caffeine in chocolate acts as a vasodilator to widen and relax the blood vessels so oxygenated blood can more easily flow through and restore your muscles.
Don't Forget About This Vitamin During Winter8 of 9
Sunlight is one of the most abundant sources of vitamin D (our bodies make the nutrient by absorbing UVB rays). Researchers have long known vitamin D is important for bone health and that a deficiency can lead to serious (if rare) bone diseases such as rickets. But new research points to broader health benefits of getting adequate D, including lower risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease, as well as increased athletic performance.
There are almost no symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, so one of the only ways to know you're getting an adequate amount is with an expensive blood test. Runners who live in the northern half of the United States and all of Canada and Europe, where winter sun isn't strong enough to make vitamin D, are more at risk than others.