Flu season starts in October and can continue all the way through May, with peak outbreaks occurring in January and February.
Maintaining a high level of performance and physique requires determination, dedication and consistency; add the flu to that equation and it completely loses its balance. The best approach to flu season is essentially taking the steps to avoid catching it in the first place.
One of the most important factors is eating healthy. A balanced diet will keep the immune system intact and ready to fight off pathogens that can cause sickness.
Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains is a crucial aspect as the antioxidants in these foods have been known to drastically improve our immune systems. Taking a daily multi-vitamin is also vital as they are packed with the same important antioxidants such as Vitamins C (ascorbic acid), D, and E as well as beta-carotene. Multi-vitamins are especially helpful for people who have trouble keeping a balanced diet and may not necessarily be getting the nutrients they need specifically through their food.
Drinking plenty of water and keeping your caloric intake consistent are other main factors to the diet aspect. Protein, for example, provides our bodies with immunoglobulins that help fight off infection and a lack of these proteins in our blood makes us more susceptible to sickness. Using a protein powder to maintain protein consumption is a huge convenience for athletes because it can be quickly consumed and easily taken anywhere in a shake. Many of us don’t have time to cook a full meal and protein shakes are great replacements for that exact reason.
Water allows the body to flush out toxins and keeps our largest organ (skin) intact. Dehydration can result in dry skin and cracks, which creates an easier route for pathogens to enter the body. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is a key factor in staying healthy.
Probiotics keep the lining of the intestines healthy which prevents the spread of harmful bacteria into the bloodstream. This also aids in the maintenance and health of the immune system in general.
The University of Tennessee Medical Center writes that, “recent research shows probiotics (dietary supplement) boosting the immune system. The theory is healthy bacteria found in probiotics keep the gut and intestinal tract low in disease-causing germs”. Taking a daily probiotic helps maintain good bacteria while destroying the bad, ultimately improving our overall immune system health.
Overdoing your workout can hinder you more than it helps. In a publication from active.com, the author references research that shows, “athletes exercising at a high intensity for 90 minutes or more experience a steep drop in immune function that can last up to 24 hours”. There is a difference between having a good workout and completely exhausting your body beyond the extent necessary. Try not to over-do it at the gym and give each muscle group enough time to recover before training again.
It is suggested that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. The body uses this time to recover and throughout the night releases cytokine (a type of protein) that helps regulate our sleep as well as fight infections. A lack of sleep therefore results in slowed recovery time.
An active individual needs to maintain a healthy, balanced diet rich in antioxidants to keep their immune system ready to fend off illnesses that they may come in contact with. Supplements are needed to complete that diet as well as a healthy training regimen, proper hydration and plentiful sleep.