If you want peace of mind at the starting post, make sure your training regime includes a regular dose of Vitamin C - it could be your best insurance policy ever!
Poor health is one of the biggest concerns amongst marathon runners in the lead up to a big race. Nobody wants to spend months and months of hard training only to be pipped at the post by a viral infection, or incapacitated by a tummy bug! So what’s the answer?
To steer clear of disaster you need to pull all the tricks out of the bag to support your immune system. Here are a few helpful hints…
Avoid common pitfalls
Don’t overdo it
Train sensibly….Make sure you thoroughly research the preparation needed for a marathon and get advice from experts in this field. Overdoing it with an excessively long period of high-intensity training and insufficient recovery time could result in injuries and can depress your immune function.
Very high-intensity exercise increases levels of oxidative stress to the body significantly placing additional antioxidant requirements on athletes. Insufficient antioxidant protection can leave muscles and connective tissue unprotected from free radical damage which affects the body’s ability to recover between bouts of training.
Lack of protein and essential fatty acids (EFAs)
Many athletes are still convinced that all dietary fat is a bad thing and continue to follow low-fat diets believing this will keep body fat down and improve performance. This is a misguided belief; EFAs are essential for many vital functions in the body including maintaining a healthy immune system and reducing inflammation, so if you’re determined to achieve your personal best don’t cut out EFAs.
Exercisers also tend to skimp on protein preferring to focus on high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets which can lead to deficiencies. The immune system cannot function without the help of protein rich white blood cells that fight infection, so including sufficient protein is essential to health and performance.
Lack of sleep
You’re probably aware that the body carries out essential repairs during the night but did you realise that sleep also exerts a strong influence on your immune function? Studies have shown that the production of specialised immune cells peaks during sleeping hours, enhancing immune defence.
Experts have also identified that prolonged periods of sleep deprivation place enormous stress on the body which increases inflammatory activity. During the normal course of sleep this would be effectively countered by anti-inflammatory agents, but this does not happen where there is chronic sleep loss. The more physically active you are the more restorative sleep you need. Aim for 8-10 hours a night.
Five Top tips to boost your immunity
1 - Eat the right foods and plenty of them
Before undertaking a strenuous exercise regime you will need to make sure that your nutritional requirements are fully taken care of. To maintain optimal health your body requires a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants on a daily basis but this is even more important if you are subjecting it to the increased demands of high-intensity exercise.
Foods like oily fish, chicken, turkey, beans, nuts, avocados, seeds and pulses, will provide you with good quality protein and important essential fatty acids to build and repair muscles and support your immune system.
Don’t hold back on fruit and veggies, you need at least 5 to 10 portions a day to get an adequate supply of vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, fibre and antioxidants. Vitamin C, in particular, is a powerful antioxidant and essential for a fully functioning immune system which is substantiated by a wide body of research.
Scientists have found that vitamin C supports the action of important immune cells that initiate the body’s response to a virus. Furthermore, research has proven that vitamin C is able to reduce the duration and severity of colds – handy to know if you pick up a bug close to race day!
Because of the extra demands placed on your body prior to a marathon its worth considering a vitamin C supplement. Don’t just settle for any old product though – the bioavailability of standard oral vitamin C is poor so you need to make sure you maximise your daily dose.
Choosing liposomal Altrient vitamin C helps you to achieve this by transporting almost 100% of the vitamin C directly to the immune cells that need it. The liposomal technology used for delivering Altrient C gives it a distinct advantage over standard oral supplements, which according to research simply can’t achieve the same level of absorbency. Altrient C also comes in easy-to-take gel sachets and is free from sugar and artificial additives.
2 - Be good to your gut
Looking after your gut flora is essential if you want to boost your immunity and avoid racing to the loo instead of the finish line! An overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria can lead to unwanted bloating, cramping and diarrhoea.
Eating fermented foods daily can help to build the beneficial bacteria in your gut keeping your bowels healthy. Try live yoghurt, kefir, pickles or sauerkraut.
3 - Build in time for recovery
Recovery after strenuous exercise is important not just to relax and chill out but to repair muscle, support joints and allow the immune system to re-boot itself. Muscles unaccustomed to regular exercise may undergo some degree of damage resulting in inflammation which a healthy immune system should be able to cope with – so give it time to do its job.
4 - Get plenty of sleep
- Make sure the room you sleep in is dark enough – too much light will stop you getting to sleep and can interrupt the natural rhythm of your sleep too.
- Switch off your PC a couple of hours before bedtime – an active mind does not promote sleep.
- Take a relaxing hot bath with Epsom salts; these contain magnesium sulphate which encourages sleep.
- Avoid late night caffeinated drinks – stimulants like coffee will keep you awake.
- Ban TV in the bedroom – it keeps the brain active and inhibits sleep.
5 - Make use of nature’s immune boosters
Fruit and veg rich in vitamin C such as kiwi, broccoli, berries and peppers should definitely be top of your list but there are other plants that offer amazing immune supportive properties and some of them may be even be growing in your garden!
- Wild Garlic – research has found the species Allium ursinum to have strong antimicrobial activity and is particularly effective against salmonella and E coli, both strains of bacteria that cause severe diarrhoea, headaches and abdominal cramps.
- Oyster mushrooms – contain chemical components called Beta-glucans which are naturally occurring polysaccharides. These substances boost immunity by activating several immune system cells.
- Elderberry – has been used for centuries to treat respiratory illnesses such as colds and flu. Evidence suggests that compounds it contains may help to reduce swelling in the sinuses and relieve nasal congestion. Studies using black elderberry extract have found that it reduces the duration of flu symptoms by up to 4 days. Its effects are enhanced when combined with vitamin C.
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