As the weather changes rapidly in transitioning from hot summer days to cool fall evenings through September into October, the likelihood for the cold and flu impacting athletes increases. This time of the season is where it becomes more and more important to be competing at your best as you approach post season possibilities. That said, let’s outline a handful of tools that can be utilized to ensure you are doing your best to fight any illness that may come in your path.
- Ensure Quality Sleep (7-9 hours) – A 2009 study titled sleep habits and susepcitibility to the common cold found important truths regarding sleep and it’s impact of illness. This study investigated the relationship between sleep duration and the risk of developing a cold after exposure to the cold virus. The researchers found that individuals who slept less than seven hours per night were almost three times more likely to develop a cold when exposed to the virus compared to those who slept eight hours or more. The best tips towards a good night sleep include 1. A dark room 2. A cool room (68-70 F) 3. Minimal noise, if anything a quiet fan.
- Quality Micronutrient intake: Everybody knows that vitamin C is one of the most popular nutrients for immune health but it is also to consider a host of others that are essential to great overall immune health. Lets examine a few other important micronutrients…
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A is essential for the maintenance of healthy skin and mucous membranes, which are the body’s first line of defense against pathogens. It also enhances the function of white blood cells and supports the production of antibodies.
- Zinc: Zinc is a mineral that is vital for the development and function of immune cells. It helps in the production of antibodies and supports the activity of various enzymes involved in immune function. Zinc deficiency can impair immune responses and increase the risk of infections.
- Iron: Iron is necessary for the production of red and white blood cells. White blood cells, particularly lymphocytes, are crucial components of the immune system. Iron deficiency can weaken the immune response and make the body more susceptible to infections.
- Selenium: Selenium is a trace element that is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system. It helps in the production of cytokines, which are signaling molecules that play a role in immune responses. Selenium deficiency can impair immune function and increase the risk of certain infections.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is known for its role in bone health, but it also plays a key role in modulating the immune system. It helps immune cells identify and destroy pathogens. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with an increased susceptibility to infections.
- Prepare each cold morning with layers: As the weather changes, the temperature range throughout the day can vary between 30-40 degrees depending on where you are training. That said, 75 degree afternoons might have 40 degree mornings without cloud cover. That said, it is important to pack warm and shed layers as your body gets warmed up through training.
- Eat enough calories – Caloric deficits in and of themselves are an acute stressor to the body. Though it’s acute and not chronic, stacking multiple acute stressors (micronutrient deficients, lack of sleep, high training load, etc.) can create a body that is ripe for catching a cold or flu. Also, caloric deficits can pave way to potential injuries thus it is best to cut if needed during the off season where competition and performance is out of sight.