By: Coach Alexis Alvarez
If you want to be the best possible version of yourself exercise is a biological imperative. There is no pill that can instantly replace the beneficial effects of exercise, such as an increased sense of well-being, lower resting heart rate, lower blood pressure, increased metabolism, improved lung function, and even improved immune system response. Sometimes, however, even the healthiest of athletes can fall victim to an upper-respiratory bug. You or someone you know has probably felt the wrath of some vicious pathogen doing it’s nasty business in your throat, lungs and sinus cavities. This Spring I’ve seen a lot of this, and so I thought it would be a good topic of discussion.
Prolonged vigorous exercise places stress on the body and with stress comes stress hormones such as cortisone. Cortisone is vital. Cortisone in the right amounts reduces inflammation and keeps the immune system from over reacting, but too much of it can also be a health risk. Too much exercise equals too much stress and in turn that amounts to high levels of the stress hormone cortisone. Heightened levels of cortisone (either from exercise or daily stress) can have the negative side effect of signaling the immune system to “take it a little easier” leaving your body susceptible to biological threats such as bacteria and viruses.
After prolonged vigorous exercise cortisone level can remain pretty high for up to twelve hours. This period of high cortisone can be referred to as a “window period”. If vigorous exercise like this continues day after day this can lead to chronic immunosuppression, this means the “window period” stays open.
The “window period” is not a bad thing, and in reality it is completely necessary for your recovery. Picture your body as a fortress and exercise as a battle of sorts. After the battle your body tells the military (immune system) to stand down so that the citizens (cells) can begin repairs. Your body needs to make repairs , but you also need to protect yourself.
What can you do to protect yourself?
1) Stay Hydrated Duh!!!
Yes, it sounds cliché’ but the importance of staying hydrated cannot be overstated. The cells of your immune system depend on the passages of your lymphatic system to move through your body. Not drinking enough water thickens lymphatic fluid and impairs the movement of your immune system’s cells.
2) Adequate nutrition.
Some athletes may under eat because they are trying to look leaner or are trying to lose weight. Whatever the case, make sure you get enough protein. The “window period” will stay open longer if you’re body can’t recover because it doesn’t have the protein needed to do repairs.
Some antioxidants can prevent illnesses by shoring up your immune system. Zinc, Vitamin C, Quercetin, and Vitamin E are strong supporters of the immune system.
4) Practice Good Hygiene
Practicing good hygiene keeps your body from being overwhelmed by foreign invaders that can potentially cause an illness.
5) Get enough sleep
Recovery happens during sleep. Without enough sleep, your cortisone levels may stay elevated longer than they should be causing a weaker immune system.
6) Avoid overtraining
Listen to your body. This is one of the harder things to do.
A little soreness is ok, but soreness to point where your range of motion is compromised and you feel utterly weak is too much. Don’t feel bad if you take a day or two off for your health, you’re not Rich Froning….. yet.
Protect your Gainz by protecting your health especially during this cold and flu season.