People who exercise frequently (more than 8-10 hours a week) need to take additional steps to protect their immune system. Still a growing area of research, there are a few good options you can use to boost immune function.
The most important way to boost your immune system is by paying close attention to exercise recovery. More specifically, eating a mixture of carbohydrates and protein (especially branched chain amino acids) immediately following exercise has been shown to benefit the immune system.
The amino acid glutamine has gained a lot of positive research attention for its role in protecting against exercise-induced illness. We mix a bit in with our sports drink during long runs or rides, and also add it to our post-workout smoothies to ensure we get plenty of it.
Oxidation, or the production of free radicals, commonly occurs with more intense exercise and this has been linked to poor immune function. Consuming plenty of antioxidants is important to halt this process. You can add a scoop of either Greens First to your post-workout recovery drink to stop the production of oxidants, which occurs for hours after exercise.
Vitamin D is very important for the immune system. It plays a vital role in warding off viral infections (which are typically the cause of 90% of sicknesses that we get). You should definitely start supplementing staring in October through the winter months, and even in the summer if don't get much sun.
If you find yourself getting sick more often as your training increases then following some or all of the above recommendations will be important to keep you healthy. Don't get sidelined by a bunch of illnesses if you are training for something big!
If you want to read more about the immune system and exercise, here are two detailed papers written by Dr. Barker.
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