The change of weather that occurs with the changing of a season is the precursor for the start of the cold and flu season. Athletes are extremely susceptible to colds and flus as their immune systems are already stressed due to their training loads and low body fat stores. Add in any lack of sleep or travel and you have a complete flu cocktail…..or even worse the Man Flu!!
So what can you do to assist your immune system to prevent illness this Autumn or at least shorten the life of any colds and flus:
- Dress appropriately. YES, my first tip is not a nutrition one. I see so many people shivering walking home in the evening or athletes shivering before warming up when the season changes. Be pro-active, and pack extra layers so you are dressed for the weather. Extremes in core body temperature adds additional stress to your system and it is so easily avoided with LAYERS.
- Two and five. Ensuring you simply hit the recommended serve of fruit and vegetables will help you maintain your immune boosting vitamin and mineral intake. Time to make some homemade vegetable soups and choose fruit for your snacks wherever possible.
- High vitamin C fruit choices. May boost your immune system and lucky for us, the cooler months are when our high vitamin C fruits come into season. Mandarins, oranges are perfect this time of year. Also, kiwi fruit and strawberries provide a concentrate hit of vitamin C in their small little tasty packages.
- Probiotic supplementation. There have been several studies that look at the impact of probiotics on immunity. They may indirectly assist your immunity, specifically the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections. A recent study published by one of my amazing colleagues with elite rugby players, found that they shortened the duration of any URTI. This does require a certain dose and strain of probiotics so speak to your Sports Dietitian to find out more.
- Sleep. If you are limiting your bodies main mechanism to recover and fight infection then you will most likely lose the battle against the winter germs.
- Hygiene. I know it sounds simple but if you are proactive from the outset of Autumn with washing your hands, sanitising, not sharing drink bottles and sneezing into your elbow you can protect others as well as yourself.