Top Tips for Athlete Immunity during COVID-19

The main focus during this time is looking after health and immunity. There are simple measures as athletes that we can do both physically and nutritionally to support the two.

Coach Alex has put together some useful advice/guidance to help you stay healthy:

The main one is moderation of exercise, especially during a time where we may have more time to train. If exercise duration of intensity frequency is rapidly increased it will put our body and immunity under additional stress. The diagram below (Jukendrup 2016) demonstrates how moderate exercise can promote good immunity and lower the risk of infection, however, increased training load dramatically increases that risk. Follow usual protocol of no more than 10% increase week on week and schedule in frequent recovery/ rest weeks every 2-3 weeks.

Nutrition

1. Micronutrients - Firstly, ensure a high quality, fresh and varied diet where you can to prevent any macronutrient deficiencies that support our health and immune function. Try and include a variety of colours both fruit and vegetables on your plate throughout the day - Eat a Rainbow.

2. Protein and Carbohydrates - Ensure these are not neglected. Try and get good servings and sources of protein at each meal. Protein being the building blocks of pretty much every system in our body, including enzymes, hormones and cells involved in the immune process. Carbohydrate also being important in fuelling cells of the immune system. Aim to have protein and carbs pre and post training sessions and if the duration is longer than 1h and/or the intensity is high then include during the session too. This also leads into avoiding long periods of energy restriction - fasted sessions, prolonged or intense exercise >1h without fuelling.

3. Hydration - seems obvious, but our mouth is the first barrier to infection through the secretion of salivary IgA (our first line of defence). No matter how long or short the training session, to support salivary IgA secretion regularly sip water/fluid during exercise just to stop the mouth from getting dry, specially in colder weather.

4. Vitamin D - Another important player in our immunity. Its highly likely that just coming out of the winter months in the UK the majority of the population are low in VitD, even if there is exposure to the sun, sadly the absorption is poor due to the suns angle at this time of year. 1000-3000UI of Vitamin D supplementation is recommended over this period, especially the time of year and given the current higher risks of infection.

5. Alcohol - Finally, probably not the one that everyone wants to hear but try limit/ moderate alcohol consumption, especially bingeing. Alcohol is an additional stressor to our system and is a depressant of the immune system.

Further Reading

If anyone wants further reading then there is a good paper by N. Walsh https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-019-01160-3

Podcasts

Institute of Performance Nutrition - 'Immunological Aspects of Training & Sports Nutrition' with Professor Michael Gleeson. http://wedoscience.com/michael-gleeson

Institute of Performance Nutrition - 'Nutrition, Physical Activity and Immunity' with Glen Davison PhD http://wedoscience.com/episode-44-nutrition-physical-activity-and-i... phd

Any questions please post below!

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