Colds and flu disrupt training and make it a chore to get back into it. Before flu puts a kink in your training regime have a look at my top tips for avoiding getting sick this January.
Hygiene - Wash your hands with liquid soap, not a bar of soap. Use disposable tissues. Don’t share drinking glasses. Don’t touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth after being exposed to bacteria and viruses. Clean communal surfaces such as stair rails, phones, counter tops and door knobs to avoid hand to hand contamination. Avoid smoking. Smoking acts as a respiratory irritant which increases susceptibility to viruses.
Exercise - Following a regular moderate workout program can boost your T cells (type of white blood cells). However, ongoing intense vigorous exercise has been linked with lowering immune system functioning. Athletes often use the antioxidant quercetin to reduce the risk of developing flu.
Sleep - Get your full 8 hours. I know Arnold Schwarzenegger swears by 6 hours but I would recommend getting the full 8! Otherwise lack of sleep will weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to colds and flu.
Flu shot - Not 100% effective, but every little helps. If you hate needles you can try the nasal flu vaccine but it isn’t recommended for children under the age of 5 with asthma/wheezing issues.
Stress - Enduring prolonged periods of stress has been proved to have a negative impact on your body’s immunity. Try meditation, tai chi or yoga to relax.
Vitamin C - Get it through food, not supplements - because you get all the other good stuff too. For instance, when you eat an orange you get antioxidant rich flavonoids, magnesium, folate, potassium and vitamin B6. Fruit and vegetables contain vitamins A and E, which in combination with flavonoids and vitamin C help keep your immune system functioning well. There’s no proof that high doses of Vitamin C will prevent you from getting sick.
Herbs and supplements - Astragalus, echinacea and elderberry help reduce the length of your illness. Take them as soon as you start to feel cold or flu like symptoms.
Diet - Generally people don’t eat enough vegetables, particularly in Winter. Try adding juices to your diet and fruit with your breakfast. Try to ensure you have fruit or vegetables with every meal. A healthy balanced diet should include lean meats, fish, poultry, low fat dairy, legumes, whole grains and nuts and seeds. Lean meat, dairy, eggs and legumes provide the body with amino acids. Lean meats also contain iron and zinc which help support the immune system. Avoid trans fats! Choose healthy fats such as Omega 3 rich fatty acids in oily fish, flaxseed and krill oil. Keep hydrated and avoid sugary drinks.
Here is what I do for the first 24 hours when I start to feel sick.
- Take ibuprofen regularly for the first 24-48 hours.
- Make (from scratch not a can) chicken soup for lunch.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Keep warm.
- Take a rest from exercise.
- Have a hot Indian curry for dinner (with lots of turmeric in it).
- Have an early night.
Stay happy and heathy! :)