Supporting Immune Function during Training
Increasing physical activity is generally associated with improved immune function and a decreased risk of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI’s). However, during times of intense training or increased stress, greater amounts of exercise can temporarily impair immune function and place athletes at higher risk for URTI’s and other illnesses.¹ It is not uncommon for athletes to experience symptoms of illness or infection around times of physical stress such as competitions.² This is a major concern as even minor illnesses can impact performance.
To maintain optimum immune competence, athletes are encouraged to eat balanced meals that are adequate in protein and energy. Diets should also have sufficient amounts of iron, zinc, and vitamins A, D, E, B6, and B12 as these micronutrients have been identified as being of particular importance in the maintenance of good immune function.³ Athletes should also consider introducing foods that contain plant polyphenols like fruits, whole grains, and legumes as well as foods that contain probiotics, such as yogurt, as they might have positive effects on immune function.²
In addition to the nutritional strategies already mentioned athletes should also practice good hand hygiene, follow basic food safe principles, avoid sharing equipment and personal items such as water bottles, get adequate sleep, and try to minimize stress.² Additional information for food safety can be found at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/kitchen-cuisine/index-eng.php
Vegetarian Food Sources Of…
Iron: Spinach, Tomato puree, Edamame, Hot/Cold Cereals, Tofu, Lentils, Legumes, Molasses, Pumpkin seeds, Raisins, Dates
Zinc: Wheat germ, Bran, Pumpkin seeds, Baked beans, Oats
Vitamin A: Sweet potato, Pumpkin, Carrots, Winter squash
Vitamin D: Fortified juice and dairy or dairy alternative products
Vitamin E: Spinach, Wheat germ, Egg, Almonds, Sunflower seeds, Hazelnuts
Vitamin B6: Banana, Sweet potato, Avocado, Wheat bran, Chickpeas, Soybeans, Pistachios, Sunflower seeds
Vitamin B12: Milk, Cheese, Yogurt, Soy beverage, Nutritional yeast
Cranberry Orange Muffins
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- zest of 2 oranges
- 1 cup whole grain flour
- 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons fortified orange juice
- 2 Tablespoons low fat milk
- 1 and 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (if frozen, do not thaw)
- Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Grease a 12-count muffin pan. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl mix oil with the granulated and brown sugars. Beat on high until creamed, about 2 full minutes.
- Add the eggs, yogurt, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute, then turn up to high speed until the mixture is combined and uniform in texture.
- Beat in the orange zest until combined.
- In large bowl, combine dry ingredients.
- Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just combined.
- Fold in cranberries.
- Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Recipe adapted from: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2014/11/06/cranberry-orange-muffins/
- Couto, M., Silva, D., Delgado, L., & Moreira, A. (2013). Exercise and airway injury in athletes.Acta Medica Portuguesa, 26(1), 56-60.
- Gleeson, M. (2013). Nutritional support to maintain proper immune status during intense training. Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop series, 75, 85-97. doi: 10.1159/000345822.
- Gleeson, M., & Williams, C. (2013). Intense exercise training and immune function. Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop Series, 76, 39-50. doi: 10.1159/000350254.