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Boost Your Immunity & Beat The Winter Bugs

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Hard Training and frequent racing stresses the body’s immune system, leaving the athlete more susceptible to both bacterial and viral infections This is especially true in colder, winter months. Building a strong immune system through proper nutrition should be the goal of any athlete who wants to remain in good health. Here are some tips on how to build up your immune system over the winter.

PRE-TRAINING NUTRITION:Endurance runners should focus on food and fluid intakes before and during training and racing. Training on depleted resources can raise the levels of stress hormones in the body. These hormones can increase muscle breakdown and have a negative effect on the immune system leaving you prone to colds and flus. Get organised and plan your pre-post workout snacks well in advance. Get into the routine of making these the night before a session or race

KEEP HYDRATYED: It’s just as important to be well hydrated in winter as in the warmer summer months, although cold can blunt your thirst mechanism. Ensure that your urine is clear at all times; this is the best indicator of how well hydrated you are.

OILS & SEEDS: Good foods to help fight inflammation in the body after a hard session are the foods containing healthy omega-3 fats such as oily fish, walnuts, flax seed oil, pumpkin seed, fruit and vegetables. Be sure to include plenty of these in your diet.

BREAKFAST PROTEIN Try to include some protein at breakfast time to help you feel fuller for longer and to repair and rebuild muscle tissue damaged by training. Lightly-cooked eggs, liver, smoked salmon, peanuts or cottage cheese are all good choices.

ROOT VEGETABLES Eating more root vegetables can help to fill you up and keep you away from snacking on junk food later. Eat plenty of carrots, parsnips, pumpkin and turnips which are high in fibre and water, making you feel fuller. They are also in season and at their nutritional best during winter months.

TOP UP ON VITAMINS & MINERALS Boost your body’s ability to absorb iron from your wholegrain breakfast cereal by topping it with a vitamin C-rich fruit such as kiwi or strawberries. Taking vitamin C foods in the same meal as iron-containing foods helps the body absorb far more of this valuable mineral. Vitamin C can help to reduce the inflammation and tissue damage which occur following training sessions. While supplements are useful in times of added stress, it best to get vitamin C from the diet on a daily basis from foods such as oranges, grapefruit, kiwi fruit, berries, tomatoes and peppers. Vitamin E is a very important anti-oxidant vitamin which helps to prevent damage to cells and tissues caused by free radicals which are generated after hard training.

Vitamin E is found in sunflower oil and seeds and also wheatgerm. Try sprinkling 1 tbsp on your daily cereal. Working in conjunction with vitamin E, selenium is vital for healthy immunity. One of the richest sources of both selenium and vitamin E are Brazil nuts. Brazil nuts also provide high levels of protein and zinc. Six a day provides four times your daily requirement for selenium. Marathon runners, track and field athletes and triathletes, especially females, often have low zinc levels which can lead to colds and flus. White spots on your nails indicate a lack of zinc. Vegetarian athletes, in particular, need to ensure that their zinc levels are adequate.

Lack of zinc in the diet can lead to colds and flu’s. Zinc occurs naturally in meat, eggs and seafood while supplements are also a good option. We’ve all been told at some time of another to ‘eat your greens’. We should also aim to eat our reds, yellows and oranges as well. All of these highly-coloured fruit and vegetables contain beta carotene, which not alone boosts the immune system but also helps in the prevention of certain cancers. You can get your daily dose from carrots, peppers, spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, melon, apricots, prunes and peaches. Arginine, which is found in meat, fish and eggs, is an amino acid that stimulates muscle growth and strength, and also works to strengthen immunity.

Echinacea boosts the immune system by increasing the ability of the white blood cells to fight bacterial infections. Used by most people to fight colds and flus, this herb can be useful for almost any infection. It should be taken as prescribed and for three to seven days at a time only. Liquorice helps the body to cope with stressful conditions, i.e. infection, fatigue, low blood pressure and palpitations. It also relieves the symptoms of coughs by breaking down mucus. Not only that, it kills bacteria, fights ulcers and is also helpful in the fight against liver disorders, bronchitis and arthritis. Half a stick of liquorice is more

Source: Irish Runner Magazine –  Article by: Freda Molamphy