Boost your im­mune sys­tem


Athletics Weekly - - nEWS -

HAVE YOU turned on the cen­tral heat­ing yet? If not, it won’t be long be­fore the ther­mo­stat is cranked up and stuffy in­door con­di­tions com­bined with hard train­ing give rise to win­ter viruses. Ath­letes are more prone than most to up­per res­pi­ra­tory tract in­fec­tions (URTI) at this time of year and symp­toms of a sore throat, headache, fa­tigue, runny nose and wa­tery eyes ac­count for 40-60% of prob­lems that side­line them from train­ing. Your diet is your best de­fence against sea­sonal in­fec­tion, so pre­pare for bat­tle by adding the fol­low­ing to your shop­ping list:


As a mem­ber of the cru­cif­er­ous fam­ily of veg­eta­bles (cab­bage, cau­li­flower and kale are sib­lings), broccoli has a lot go­ing for it in terms of ill­ness pre­ven­tion. For starters, it has the most size­able amount of sul­foraphane, a po­tent com­pound that helps to boost the body’s pro­tec­tive en­zymes. Aim for at least 50g broccoli, kale or Brus­sels sprouts daily to ob­tain a ben­e­fi­cial in­take. Green smooth­ies are a great way to boost your sul­foraphane sup­plies – you can even buy broccoli pow­der to add to the mix.


Used for cen­turies as a health aid in South Africa, Rooibos – Africaans for red bush – is said to help treat ev­ery­thing from hay fever and asthma to eczema and nau­sea. It’s caf­feine-free and con­tains plen­ti­ful an­tiox­i­dants and small amounts of min­er­als in­clud­ing cal­cium, potas­sium, iron, zinc and mag­ne­sium. Stud­ies at uni­ver­si­ties in Ja­pan and South Africa have found that the tea’s an­tiox­i­dant pro­file helps to boost the body’s im­mune sys­tem and the on­set of cel­lu­lar dam­age.


Sports sci­en­tists are be­gin­ning to un­der­stand more fully the mech­a­nisms by which a healthy gut flora en­hances per­for­mances.

A study pub­lished in the jour­nal Nutri­ents last year ex­plained how a daily probiotic sup­ple­ment can boost im­mu­nity against URTI by en­hanc­ing lev­els of good gut bac­te­ria. Re­searchers gave 33 ath­letes ei­ther a daily dose of a probiotic sup­ple­ment or a placebo and asked them to con­tinue with their in­tense train­ing for 12 weeks. By the end of the trial, the placebo ath­letes had 11% lower post-ex­er­cise lev­els of tryp­to­phan, an amino acid that plays a role in con­trol­ling im­mune re­sponses, com­pared to lev­els at the start of the study. Lev­els were un­changed in the probiotic group who were also 2.2 times less likely to suf­fer one or more URTI symp­toms dur­ing the three months.



Matcha is a favourite of ath­letes. Made from ground-up green tea leaves it is rich in polyphe­nol com­pounds called cat­e­chins, a type of an­tiox­i­dant. Some stud­ies have shown matcha pro­vides three times the amount of polyphe­nols as reg­u­lar green tea – be­cause it is pow­dered you’re consuming the leaves as op­posed to in­fus­ing them in wa­ter and then dis­card­ing them. Sprinkle it on your por­ridge or add to smooth­ies.


This fer­mented dairy milk prod­uct – pro­nounced Keff-er and mean­ing ‘feel good’ in Turk­ish – has an ac­quired taste that’s not ini­tially to ev­ery­one’s lik­ing. But per­se­vere as it is good for boost­ing gut bac­te­ria, bone health and ward­ing off win­ter in­fec­tions. “It has a much wider range of bac­te­ria than yo­ghurt,” says Dr Me­gan Rossi, a nutrition re­search as­so­ciate at King’s Col­lege Lon­don and a gut health spe­cial­ist. One trial found that consuming kefir for six months im­proved mark­ers of bone health in a group with os­teo­poro­sis and there are sug­ges­tions it also has an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory prop­er­ties,

Rossi says.


Tak­ing mega-doses of this vi­ta­min is not rec­om­mended for the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, yet any­one train­ing hard should con­sider it. In tri­als at the Univer­sity of Helsinki more than 11,000 marathon run­ners, teenage com­pet­i­tive swim­mers, sol­diers and school chil­dren were given a dose of the vi­ta­min be­fore as­sess­ing its im­pact on their health.

While it had no ef­fect on the seden­tary par­tic­i­pants, the re­searchers showed it halved the risk of catch­ing a cold in ath­letes train­ing hard. Among the group of teenage swim­mers who caught a cold and were treated with vi­ta­min C, most shook off their ill­ness twice as fast as train­ing part­ners who didn’t take it. In the youngest ath­letes a daily 1g dose slashed the av­er­age du­ra­tion of colds in chil­dren by 18% and in adults by 8%.

Rooibos tea: rich in an­tiox­i­dants

Vi­ta­min C: helps to pre­vent colds

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