6 ways to boost your immunity this winter

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The winter months bring colder mornings, shorter days and the dreaded common cold. Athletes and sportspeople under physiological stress from high-intensity training and competition can have a greater risk of infection due to immunosuppression.

Thankfully the Sports Dietitians at Precision Athletica in Sydney, have come up with some great ideas for what to include in your diet in order to help boost your immune system, prevent you getting sick, or if you are sick, help you to recover quicker and get back to training.

Prevention:

  • Vitamin D

Rugging up in the cold often means we expose less of our skin to sunlight throughout the day. This can put us at an increased risk of Vitamin D deficiency, as sunlight is our major source of this vital nutrient.

Inadequate Vitamin D levels can adversely affect the immune system as it is particularly important for T-cell mediated immunity. In other words, it helps to fight off bugs that may infect our bodies.

Where possible, aim for 20 minutes of sun exposure on your arms and legs per day, however if you’re struggling to meet that, small amounts of Vitamin D can be found in foods such as salmon, mushrooms, eggs and fortified products such as margarine.

  • Probiotics

Probiotics are the live bacteria that feed our gut and play an important role in preventing upper respiratory tract infections and gut intestinal tract infections. You can find them in foods such as yoghurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso and kefir or in the form of a supplement.
Including these in your diet can help keep your gut function optimally and give you the best chance of fighting off any unwanted bacteria.

  • Fruits and vegetables

A diet that is rich in colourful fruits and vegetables will provide an abundance of micronutrients that will benefit your immune system amongst other things.
Aim for two serves of fruit and at least five serves of vegetables every day. Mixing up your sources will ensure your micronutrient pool is thriving and will give you the best chance of avoiding sickness.

  • Carbohydrates

Athletes can experience increased levels of stress hormones from training, contributing to immune suppression. Carbohydrates have been shown to dampen these effects and consequently play a role in keeping the immune system strong.

Fuel with carbohydrates (aim for whole grain) correctly before, during and after training – speak to a sport dietitian for an individualised program.

Recovery

Despite our best efforts, sometimes it’s inevitable to fall victim to bugs and viruses. So, here are some strategies to help athletes recover quicker and get back to training at your best.

  • Zinc & Vitamin C

Zinc and Vitamin C play an important role in the immune response, and have been shown to have a beneficial effect on reducing the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract infections.

At the first sign of a cold, boost your intake of Vitamin C and Zinc rich foods.

Vitamin CZinc
OrangesEggs
Dark, leafy greensPork
Kiwi fruitBeef
MandarinsOysters
ChiliChicken
TomatoesFish
  • Hydration

Keeping your fluids up whilst sick helps your kidneys and liver to flush out wastes and toxins more effectively. Proper hydration can assist in lessening congestion and allow mucus to be eliminated from the body.

Sports Nutrition at Precision Athletica

Having an effective plan when it comes to nutrition is vital for athletes, so at Precision Athletica in Sydney, we encourage all of our athletes to work with our Sports Dietitian to create tailored and individual meal and supplement plans.

If you are training your hardest and not paying attention to your diet, you could missing out on valuable performance gains.

This post was written with the help of Dietitian Intern Jacinta Birbara. If you’d like more information on sports nutrition for immune health, contact our resident Sports Dietitian – Kelsey Hutton. You can either call us on 02 9764 5787 to book an appointment, or email her directly any specific questions: Kelsey.h@precisionathletica.com.au

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