It is that time of the season, sneezing, sniffling, coughing. Recently I have been seeing and hearing a lot of viruses and infections spreading around the gym like wild fire. Whether or not it is 3 times a year or one time a year, no one likes to get sick. In the past 2 weeks I could count 6 of my clients who had to cancel their training appointments due to being laid out by the flu or an upper-respiratory infection.
Besides the way you feel when you catch a bug, many other areas of your life also come to a halting stop of production. The relationship of your immune system and your gains in the gym will be the focus of this article. Attention to maintaining a healthy immune system, combined with proper nutritional practices, will keep you free from infectious illnesses that would cause you to miss regularly scheduled gym sessions and prevent you from reaching your goals in fitness sooner.
Catching A Cold
Ask yourself, how much time do you have to waste? Let's consider how a cold or flu takes out approximately twice the number of days to recover than you might have originally thought. Here, you find yourself making great progress in strength, muscle gain, fat loss; nothing could be better and then all of a sudden CRASH! You get sick. It takes a good 7-12 days to get over the bug you just caught. During that time your muscle growth, strength, fat loss, and all your other fitness gains completely stop. However, once you get better (7-12 days) you will not be at the same point where you started fitness wise.
Your strength needs to kick back in and your body will need a few days of the right nutrition and rest to get back on track. Before you know it, 12 more days have just passes. So typically, it takes double the amount of your sick days to get back into the serious groove again. For example, if you average three colds a year that comes out to about 2 ? months spent spinning your wheels in neutral. Am I starting to make my point clear on how a healthy immunity can be your best friend in achieving your fitness and bodybuilding goals in the quickest possible time? GOOD!
Now, I will discuss five main areas that we should pay very close attention to ensure that we can keep our immune systems as strong as possible. Don't get me wrong, the strongest immunity is susceptible to getting sick, but our goal should be to minimize the chance as much as possible.
Antioxidants, Herbs, and Supplements (Most Important!)
Antioxidants are compounds that preserve and protect other compounds in the body from free radicals. Free radicals are oxygen atoms with a single electron. These molecules cause damage to tissues and create health problems. Free radicals are linked to cancer, diabetes, artheosclerosis, cataracts, and aging. Of the nutrients available for human consumption, eight stand tall for being supporters of the immune system. They are vitamins A (Beta-carotene; protects mucous membranes against invading bacteria), C, and E (helps to neutralize free radicals) and the minerals Selenium (increase fighting ability of white blood cells), Zinc (important role in T cell activity), and Sulfur. An under supply of these nutrients can lead to atrophy (break down) of the thymus gland (regulator of the immune system's activities) and to reduce bacteria-destroying activity by T and B cells.
Many herbs can promote health and well being, but two stand out the most when you feel yourself getting sick. Here I would recommend Echinacea and Goldenseal. The reason I mentioned to take these on the onset of a cold or flu is that your body will adapt to the effects of the herbs if taken all the time. So if you want to get the most out of these two herbs take them as soon as you feel yourself getting sick. They come in capsule and tea form. A good dosage is 250mg-500mg of Goldenseal 3 times a day, and 3 capsules a day of the Echinacea.
There are a few miscellaneous supplements out on the market that can help both your immunity and muscle building properties at the same time. Starting with mainly immunity boosters, the proanthyocyanidins from grape seed and pine park extracts serve with very potent antioxidant properties. NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine) is very effective at eliminating some free radical damage that occurs from strenuous exercise. Lipoic Acid, again showing very strong antioxidant properties activating in the both water and fat soluble areas. Essential Fatty Acids (fatty acids that cannot be made by the body and are necessary for thousands of biochemical reactions in the body) help support healthy nerve functions and help promote a proper immune system response. HMB and Glutamine have been shown to increase workout recovery and boost the immune and nervous systems to help prevent overtraining.
With the list of various antioxidants, herbs, and supplements, you can choose a wide array of "immune boosters" to help aid preventing any unwanted sicknesses. Here is a summary of the vitamins, mineral, herbs, supplements, and recommended dosages:
- Beta-carotene/Vita. A: 20000 IU per day
- Vita. C: 3000 mg per day
- Vita. E: 100 IU per day
- Zinc: 50mg per day
- Selenium: trace amounts
- Sulfur: trace amounts
- NAC: 200-400mg 2-3 times a day
- Echinacea/Goldenseal root: 250-500mg 3 times a day
- Pine Bark/Grape Seed Extracts: 2-3 caps per day
- HMB: 3 grams per day
- Glutamine: 10grams three times per day ( before and after training, before bed)
Too many people neglect the much-needed rest they need to function optimally. Not only does the right amount of sleep re-energize you, but also it is your body's time to build and repair. If we do not get the adequate amounts of sleep, we are never going to be running on a full tank.
Repeated neglect of proper sleep can lead to many problems including a suppressed Immune system. Make sure you get 6-8 hours of sleep a day. If you don't, try to take a mid-day nap. Even if you are eating right and taking all of the immune-boosting supplements, it will not matter if you are not getting enough sleep.
Any one who knows me will tell you I can never be separated from my jug of water. If you read my past article on water, you will remember the numerous benefits this beverage can give you. Water's role in immunity is after digestion occurs. After digestion, water, as blood, is the means by which the nutrients are carried to your cells and waste products are removed. Simply stated, water will help purify the system, Drink Up!
Exercise Without Overtraining!
The optimal duration time of exercise is crucial for muscular, strength, and recuperative gains. It is a known fact that muscle stimulation is best achieved through a workout that is of high intensity and brief duration. When you train too long, you tax your nervous system, weaken your immune system, and diminish your chances of muscle growth. I would definitely shoot for an intense workout lasting no more than 50-70 minutes, max. Learn more about overtraining, click here!
Proper State Of Mind!
Finally, the last element we will discuss is your mind power. High stressed and emotionally depresses people tend to get sick a lot. Remember that the quality of you thoughts can determine your biochemical status. If you are too stressed and worry too much, your body will produce more cortisol than normal. Extra cortisol will lower the efficiency of the thymus gland and in turn lower your immune system. When this occurs you are very easily able to get sick. Your solution is to take a step back when you are feeling over stressed or anxious and rewire your thoughts in a different direction. You must get away from the situation for a while and re-gather your well being. When I get super nervous or stressed over something, my mom always tells me, "Nothing is worth getting sick over!"
Here you have five different areas that we must pay very close attention to. With a strengthened immune system you will feel better, work better, and will keep the upward curve of quality gains in strength, muscle, fat loss, and recovery. Just as note, all the supplements, herbs, and vitamins mentioned in the nutritional section do not have to be taken.
They are just some good quality ways of assuring proper "immunity food" for your body. Strive to stay healthy! Like mentioned before, even the best immune system can't beat every cold. So if you do find yourself very sick, go visit your CHIROPRACTOR and get back on the road to recovery and better gains in your fitness plan. Until next time. Train Hard! Train Smart!