Some medical experts are worried that this cold and flu season could be rough, so now is the time to start thinking about how to boost your immune system. A bad cold or flu can take you out of your daily routine and keep you from lifting and doing other exercises.
If you have been working hard in the gym all year to make gains, the last thing you want is to lose progress during an illness. When you’re sick, you may not be able to meet your macros or go to the gym.
You can prevent this by incorporating some simple immunity-boosting measures into your usual health and fitness routine this flu season. Read on to learn more about how to boost your immune system from the health and fitness experts at Powerful Nutrition.
Maintaining a Healthy Diet
Researchers are still working to establish the exact connection between diet and immunity, but they have observed that people who live in poverty are often malnourished and are more likely to contract infectious diseases. They speculate that specific dietary factors, including consumption of highly processed foods or high sugar intake, can negatively impact your immune function. However, some people find that they get sick less often when they eat fruits and vegetables. Eating a healthy diet is also beneficial for certain health problems, including high blood pressure and heart disease.
If you lift, you are probably familiar with the macronutrients in your food: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Foods also contain micronutrients, the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function correctly. Vitamins and minerals that are associated with your immune response include:
- Folic acid
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
If you get adequate calories every day, it is unlikely that you are deficient in vitamins and minerals. Still, eating a variety of micronutrient-dense, minimally processed plant and animal foods can feed your gut microbiome. The traditional Western diet, high in sugar and red meat and low in fruits and vegetables, can negatively impact the gut microbiome and is associated with suppressed immunity.
Cold and flu season is an excellent time to make sure you fit in all those nourishing fruits, vegetables, and other foods that may boost your immunity. Many plant and animal foods can improve your immune function, but these foods are known for their high stores of the vitamins and minerals that we associate with immunity:
- Red bell peppers
- Sunflower seeds
- Citrus fruits
- Green tea
It’s great if you can incorporate these foods into your weekly meal prep, but if any of them do not appeal to you, it’s fine to skip them in favor of foods you enjoy. Healthy eating should be enjoyable, and variety is essential for proper nutrition. Eating many different kinds of fruits, vegetables, and other nourishing foods is more likely to benefit your health than simply loading up on citrus.
Food is the best way to absorb vitamins, but if you are concerned about meeting your micronutrient needs through eating alone, you can take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement. Avoid taking megadoses of a single vitamin.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Water is beneficial for your health in many ways, and it provides vital support for your immune system. Lymph is a fluid in your circulatory system primarily composed of water, and it transports the immune cells that fight infection around your body. Dehydration can slow down this process and may lead to an impaired immune system.
Even if you hardly sweat or do not exercise, you lose water through your body’s normal functioning. You lose your water stores through urination, defecation, and even breathing, and you must replace them by drinking water regularly.
Water is the best way to stay hydrated, but any drinks, even caffeinated drinks, contribute to your daily fluid requirement. You may also get fluids through the foods you eat. Watery produce like cucumbers and watermelon and dishes like soups and stews provide some hydration.
For some of us, drinking water is an unpleasant chore. You may not enjoy drinking water, or you may get absorbed in work and forget to hydrate. People who engage in a lot of high-intensity exercises may find it difficult to hydrate through water alone. If water is not adequately hydrating you, consider trying a hydration electrolyte drink mix.
Stress can harm your health whether it comes on suddenly or has been building over time. When something occurs that makes you feel stressed, your body has a stress response. Long-standing or chronic stress is more likely to initiate this response. When a stress response occurs, it suppresses your immune response, and you are more likely to get an infection or illness like the common cold.
It’s crucial to figure out the activities that help you reduce stress. Here are just some ways that people effectively manage their stress:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Stress relief drink mix
- Bubble baths
- Drawing or coloring
Finding out the right self-care routine for you is important for reducing stress and boosting your immune function.
Get Sufficient Sleep
When we get quality sleep, many essential activities occur within our body, which are vital for good health. As you catch your nightly Z’s, your body creates infection-fighting molecules that play a role in the health of your immune system. When exposed to viruses, you are more at risk of getting sick if you do not get adequate sleep. Prioritizing sleep is important for good health. If you are struggling to get adequate sleep for an extended period, be sure to talk about it with your doctor and come up with a plan to help you get more hours of sleep.
You may be interested in exercise for its ability to help you build muscle, and we have discussed how it can help with managing stress. Exercise offers many additional health benefits, and research suggests that it improves your body’s defense system. Researchers think that one way exercise contributes to your immune function is by improving circulation. This makes it easier for the immune cells and other molecules to travel around your body and target an infection. Even a small amount of exercise, as little as 30 minutes per day, may stimulate your immunity. Exercise may help you maintain a healthy weight, which is also beneficial to your immune health.
At Powerful Nutrition, we want to help you maintain good health this cold and flu season so that you can focus on what matters to you and keep putting in reps at the gym. Let us help keep you healthy and hydrated with our line of electrolyte drink mixes, including an immunity booster drink.