As you are reading this article, the Tokyo Olympics in summer 2020 is under a cloud of uncertainty. Novel Corona virus or COVID-19 is the name on everyone’s lips. If you have not heard of it, then you are not living on this planet. Key international tournaments have been cancelled; the cricket IPL is under a cloud. The Government is shutting schools and asking for public gatherings to not take place. At our Qua Nutrition clinics we are advising clients to check in on a nutrition counselling session via Skype or Whatsapp. As a Sports nutritionist it is my responsibility to see how an athlete can feed during this troublesome time. Let’s break this down for easy understanding for anyone into a sporting career.
The virus COVID-19 or coronavirus is a virus that attacks a person, causing cold and progressing to pneumonia. People who have contracted the virus have severe cough, fever and breathing difficulties. Antibiotics have not worked in the cases of this virus. The antiviral drugs are administered but for most people it does not work. A key thing to point out is
“NOT everyone is contracting the disease
Not everyone with the Virus is dying”
It means that the IMMUNITY of individuals is key to battling this virus.
That’s where I have the best advice to athletes. Let’s boost and build your immune system, so it is stronger. There is a problem, however, for athletes and that problem is training and competition.
When athletes train at high intensities the immune system can get compromised due to lack of proper nutrition. Most athletes are not on a sports diet. A sports diet takes into careful consideration the total calories burnt, the amount of protein needed and a careful balance of the micronutrients like calcium, magnesium and the vitamins. Many of these are highly depleted in training and if the diet does not compensate, then over days or weeks the body depletes its reserves. This is when the athlete’s immune system gets defeated. To have a sound immune system you need to have nutrition that is fuelling your muscles, your brain and in this case your immune system.
Right nutrition = tough immune system
Over training + no sports nutrition = weakened immune system
To boost the immune system we need to do the following
- Improve the calories and not be in calorie deficit.
- Improve the protein content and quality.
- Improve Vitamin D levels.
- Improve Vitamin C levels.
- Improve Vitamin B12 levels.
- Improve Vitamin E levels.
- Improve calcium, magnesium levels.
- Consume high anti-oxidant or highly colourful fruits and vegetables.
- Incorporate pepper, ginger, garlic and turmeric in your diet as they are immune boosters.
A quick step is to get a blood test done for your vitamins and minerals levels. Any deficiency should sound alarm bells. Check your C-reactive protein (CRP) and ESR which are inflammation markers. If your body is over trained, then you are also stressing your immune system.
Once you have got your data, start planning a diet that will help in immune boosting. The below are a few things anybody can do in their daily regime in addition to a planned sports diet.
- Haldi or turmeric can be added to your dals, rasam or even rice. I normally don’t advise tea to athletes but this viral flu season, I say, have 2-3 cups of masala tea which has turmeric, ginger cardamom, cinnamon and pepper added to it. Black is best. Limit your sugar. A haldi capsule or curcumin extract is advisable. I recommend Dailydefence from cure garden or Himalayas haridra.
- Add guava, amla, orange or kiwi to your diet every day. These days I am drinking a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. It has five oranges in it. This is more Vitamin C than a capsule.
- Add tulasi/tulsi leaves to your tea. Every morning I eat 4-5 tulasi leaves from my potted plants. You can also use any capsule of tulasi/tulsi.
- Add ginger and garlic to your curries. 2-pods of garlic can be soaked overnight and had next morning. Crush the garlic. Keep it for 2 mins. Let it oxidise. Then consume the garlic. Allicin is a very powerful antioxidant and has anti-viral properties. The only issue is your sweat begins to smell over 3 weeks. I’d rather have a smelly athlete than a sickly athlete!
- Eat purple grapes and purple cabbage. Nature has made these purple pigments to contain high anthocyanins which again have potent anti-viral and immune boosting properties.
- Ayurveda for centuries have given us some potent elixirs. Chyawanprash is my favourite. Amla or kesar choices are in my hit list to battle any cold. A tablespoon twice a day never hurt anyone.
- Luteolin is found in celery, thyme, green peppers, and chamomile tea. Luteolin inhibits, to a greater or lesser extent, an enzyme known as TBK1’s ability to activate a specific biochemical signal. If unimpeded, the signal would lead to formation of gene products known to trigger inflammation. All athletes have inflammation due to training. The immune system and inflammation are finely tuned in terms of protecting the body against damage from exercise or trauma and damage from an invading virus.
I would advise the following supplements. Please do consult your Sports Nutritionist or doctor or medical team for doping guidelines on consumption of the same.
- Calcirol 60,000IU or Vitamin D3 60,000IU. 1 Sachet per week for 4 weeks. Consult your doctor with your vit D blood test for best dosages. It’s always advisable to supplement with a doctor’s advice.
- Health Aid – Vitamin C – 1 effervescent tablet a day or Limcee 500mg once a day.
- Zincolak – 1 Capsule at bedtime or Zinc Gluconate 50mg at bedtime.
- Muscle pharm Glutamine 5 grams in orange juice every day. If you already have a cold take 10 grams in juice three times a day. Do not cross 40 grams per day. If you have medication or kidney or liver issues please check with your doctor on consumption of this amino acid.
There is a lot more one can do to boost the immune system in addition to foods and supplements.
- Sleeping 8 hours per day boosts your immune system.
- Getting natural sunlight boosts your immune system.
- Light exercise boosts your immune system.
- Practicing hygiene and good manners of wearing a mask when you have a cold.
- Do not shake people’s hands. Namaste is the best way.
- Sanitise your hands regularly.
- Keep a confident spirit. Research shows people with upbeat minds and heart rates are less prone to illness.
The author is Chief Sports Nutritionist at the QUA NUTRITION CLINICS. To get an immune boosting diet or a list of supplements under a guided program email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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