As an endurance athlete, there’s nothing more critical to your performance than your immunity. It doesn’t matter how long and hard you train. If you fail to support your immune system, your body won’t show up the way you need or want it to.
It’s no secret that exercise of any kind puts the body under a certain measure of stress. But for endurance athletes, this kind of stress is on a whole other level than your regular 5-mile Saturday morning runner.
As a training athlete, you need to focus on nutrition and an immune support supplement. Not-to-mention, your daily health habits. Here’s how to keep your immunity in top condition.
The Role and Importance of the Immune System
The human immune system is a miraculous network that not only allows us to function at our optimum but keeps us alive. On a daily basis, the immune system wards off harmful germs and bacteria that could pose a severe risk to your health. This unique defense system consists of two key networks:
- The innate immune system is our first line of defense — we are all born with this immunity in place.
- The acquired immune system, which comprises a vast number of cells that communicate with each other to act as a second line of defense
The acquired immune system becomes essential as we age and expose ourselves to new pathogens daily. You can thank your acquired immune system for keeping colds, flu, and other viruses at bay. But only if you learn how to make your health and immunity a priority.
How Physical and Psychological Stress Impacts Immunity
As an endurance athlete or even someone who trains regularly, you put yourself at risk of depressed immunity.
It seems quite ironic, doesn’t it? After all, endurance athletes are some of the fittest and healthiest people among us mere mortals. But this only rings true if an athlete knows how to care for and prioritize their immunity.
The stress of long-term training eventually has an impact on the body’s ability to fend off infection. But with enough recovery and the right tactics to support the immune system, athletes can continue to perform at their best.
When you don’t prioritize recovery and immunity, this can quickly result in overtraining and adrenal fatigue—an endurance athlete’s worst nightmare. Adrenal fatigue means that the adrenal glands above the kidneys cannot produce enough hormones to help you manage stress.
When you reach a state of adrenal fatigue, the body might struggle to fight off infection.
Believe it or not, psychological stress can have just as much impact on your immunity as physical stress. Studies show that psychological stress can severely impact the function of the immune system. Athletes are at increased risk due to the demand of their training and the mental stress of race days.
The side effects of psychological stress are why athletes must handle their stress levels to support their immunity and ward off infections.
How To Support Your Immunity as an Endurance Athlete
By now, you should have a basic understanding of just how important the immune system is and how training can impact your health. Let’s dive into how you can support this crucial defense system:
Without a shadow of a doubt, nutrition is the single most important factor that impacts your overall immunity. As an athlete, what you eat on a daily basis will have a direct impact on how well your body tolerates stress.
Both the innate and acquired immune systems require an ample amount of different nutrients to function at their optimum.
When it comes to the diet of endurance athletes, they need to focus on two types of nutrition: day-to-day and exercise nutrition. Endurance athletes should prioritize what they eat on a daily basis and what they eat before, during, and after a training session.
As the saying goes, the devil is in the details — what this means is that the small things count. And this could not be more relevant when it comes to your daily nutritional habits as an athlete.
Sure, you’re only human, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with occasionally indulging in your favorite foods. In fact, it’s encouraged to help you manage your psychological well-being.
But your day-to-day nutritional habits are what add up and make all the difference to your overall state of immunity. The key to your performance is to focus on eating whole foods in the right balance.
Balanced foods include fresh vegetables, fruit, plenty high-quality protein, unrefined carbohydrates, legumes, and healthy fats. Hydration is also extremely crucial to assist with the processing and absorption of all these nutrients.
You want to keep your consumption of processed, sugary, and refined goods to a minimum — but as mentioned, there’s no harm in the occasional indulgence. Some essential nutrients to pack into your diet include:
- Vitamin A, found in foods such as eggs, red and orange fruits, carrots, and sweet potatoes
- Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits, kiwis, berries, tomatoes, and bell peppers
- Vitamin D, found in most animal-derived products such as milk, eggs, butter, fish oils, and fortified cereals
- Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids, which you can find in fatty fish, olive oil, avocados, whole grains, seeds, and nuts
Some important minerals you also want to include in your diet include zinc and selenium, which help fortify the immune system.
It would be best to prioritize what you consume on training and race days aside from your daily nutritional habits. Nutritional planning can make all the difference in your training sessions, performance, and recovery, of course. All of which adds up to a supported immune system.
Here’s what to prioritize on training/race days:
- Carbohydrates — this is where your body gets all of the energy it needs. Your diet should always include carbohydrates, even on rest days, and should comprise up to 60 percent or more of the calories you consume
- Carbohydrate drinks — if your training sessions last longer than 60 minutes, it’s a good idea to include a carbohydrate drink. Make sure it provides up to 6 percent carbs per liter for every hour that you train
- Protein — it’s a good idea to include protein in your post-training meals to assist with muscle recovery and the replenishment of amino acids
- Water and electrolytes — it’s important to consume electrolytes before, during, and after a race/training. Aim for 200-250mg of sodium per 20-ounce bottle during a race/training, as well as potassium, magnesium, and calcium
When is the best time to eat carbohydrates on training days? While some people may say before a training session, and others say after, there is no hard-and-fast rule that says either is correct.
Ultimately, you want to ensure you eat enough carbohydrates throughout the day. Carbohydrates are crucial in replenishing those all-important glycogen stores.
Supplementing for Your Immunity
It goes without saying that each person’s immunity is 100 percent unique to them. Due to the uniqueness and complexity of the immune system, there is no ”magic bullet” that can leave you with perfect immunity.
However, certain supplements are worth incorporating into your diet. They can assist with your performance and recovery, but it’s worth noting that no single supplement can make up for an inherently poor diet.
As an endurance athlete, you might want to consider adding both a performance and recovery supplement, such as:
T-30 Daily Endurance Formula
The T-30 Daily Endurance Formula is one of the most comprehensive supplements on the market today. Its premium ingredients are designed to give athletes the performance edge they need during training sessions and race day.
It does not contain any stimulants that spike the heart rate, nor does it contain artificial sweeteners. It’s also vegan, gluten-free, allergen-free, and non-GMO. By adding this supplement to your routine, you’re adding the equivalent of 9 beneficial supplements to your diet. The wide variety of benefits are thanks to its synergistic ingredients.
Terminus Post-Workout Recovery
Terminus is yet another brilliant supplementary product to add to your recovery routine. In combination with the well-balanced diet, of course. With one of the best plant-based formulas on the market today, you can prioritize your recovery and build on your overall endurance.
This product boasts an impressive PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score) of 1.0. And its amino acid profile is superior to whey. This makes it an ideal product for muscle recovery.
Not only this, but it’s also packed with additional ingredients such as BCAAs, zinc, electrolytes, glutamine, and B vitamins.
Modifying Your Training and Recovery
As an athlete, it’s just as essential to formulate a training and recovery schedule in order to keep your immunity in top condition. As mentioned earlier, overtraining can lead to adrenal fatigue. And this leads to repeat susceptibility to infections and illnesses.
Here are a few tips:
- Make sure to adjust your training volume and intensity to suit your lifestyle so that you can manage your training load
- Try to keep the intensity of your training incremental, i.e., only increase training intensity by 5-10 percent each week
- Always include a recovery activity after each training session, i.e., an ice bath
- Try to balance out your high-intensity training sessions with moderate-intensity sessions thereafter
As always, in the lead-up to a big competition or race, you must remember to prioritize your active recovery. It’s never wise to train too hard during this time — and one reason for this is immune support and protection!
Prioritizing Your Sleep
If there was another crucial factor that impacts your training, recovery, and immunity as an athlete, it’s sleep. And it’s not just about how much you sleep, but the quality of it, too.
An endurance athlete’s main goal during their downtime and recovery should be to catch up on as much quality sleep as possible. Here are a few hacks to keep in mind:
- Don’t be tempted to restrict your sleep to prioritize training, then try to catch up on sleep later on
- Monitor your sleep patterns and sleep quality with a wearable device to get a good idea of how you’re sleeping
- Don’t underestimate the power of daytime naps
You also want to think about your sleep hygiene before you go to bed. Start developing healthy habits before bedtime that encourage sound sleep. I.e., reduced screen time, bedroom darkness, etc. A few other helpful lifestyle tips to help you manage your immunity include:
- Avoiding sick people, especially in the lead up to race day and during the colder months
- Maintaining a good sense of hand hygiene
- Keep tabs on your stress levels, primarily psychological and social stressors
- Manage your increments on training stress — prioritize low and slow
- Balance out your long training sessions with short spike sessions
- Don’t forget to prioritize your recovery and include a recovery week every second or third week in your training schedule
While some of these tips might sound super simple, they can make all the difference in how well you maintain your health.
Looking for a Reliable Immune Support Supplement?
All in all, maintaining a healthy immune system is all about balance. When you’re an endurance athlete, it’s not always easy to achieve this type of balance. But it should be a high priority if you aim to support your health and keep yourself race-day ready.
If you’re looking to add an immune support supplement to your diet, we offer high-quality products packed with all the nutrients you need. Explore our product range for more and keep your health right on track.