As a dedicated athlete and fitness enthusiast, your drive to train and push boundaries is admirable. But every now and then, an unwelcome guest shows up to challenge you: illness. Now, the question isn’t focused on how you should work out; it’s about how you should fuel your recovery. Remember, nutrition is just as critical during sickness, if not more so than it is for fitness. Let’s unravel the importance of mindful eating when you’re under the weather.
Nutrition and Immune Response
There is no doubt the food we consume has a significant impact on our immune system’s functioning. As we’ve said time and again, eating a well-balanced diet ensures not only health but wellness too. The necessary nutrients to support our immune system come directly from our diets, especially when they’re working overtime to fight off illness.
At the macro level, protein promotes the healing and recovery of body tissues. Try not to skimp out here just because you feel under the weather. Aim to get some protein in with each meal, even if it’s as a shake. On the micro level Vitamins A, C, and E, along with zinc, strengthen the immune system. Consuming a varied diet rich in colorful fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can provide these nutrients.
During illness, our body experiences increased oxidative stress, aka inflammation, due to the immune response. Antioxidant-rich foods can counteract this. Think of foods like berries, spinach, and nuts.
Hydration and Electrolyte Balance
Hydration cannot be overstated when you’re sick. You might sweat more due to fever, and symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea can result in significant fluid and electrolyte losses. So aim to drink more water than you might want! Electrolytes – those tiny minerals such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium – are crucial for many of your body’s functions – so you may also need to supplement them while you’re sick with common drinks like Gatorade or Pedilyte.
Ensuring adequate hydration and electrolyte balance can help maintain normal body functions and assist in recovery. Don’t feel like you have to stick to water either; coconut water, bone broth, and electrolyte drinks can be excellent sources of hydration and replenishment.
What to Eat When You’re Ill
While it can be challenging to maintain your regular dietary intake during sickness, aim for nutrient-dense and easily digestible foods.
- Protein shakes and smoothies: These are easy on the stomach and can be packed with immune-boosting ingredients. Strategies to get in those blended liquids may include blending Greek yogurt (for protein), adding spinach (vitamin A), adding strawberries (vitamin C), adding almonds (vitamin E), and/or including a dash of honey for taste.
- Also, your mom was right – chicken soup is good for the soul. It’s not just comforting food, chicken soup provides protein, and the hot broth helps with hydration and soothes a sore throat. Adding vegetables can up the nutrient content.
- Ginger and turmeric tea: These have natural anti-inflammatory properties, which can help alleviate symptoms.
Take it Easy
Lastly, have some grace and give yourself permission to rest. It’s essential to listen to your body and not push through workouts when you’re feeling unwell. Even though you might not feel like it, your body is working overtime to get you back to health and it’s doing a lot of work already. In fact, overexertion through exercise might actually delay your recovery! Rest is a significant component of getting better and getting back to your fitness routine.
Remember, nutrition is not just about fueling workouts; it’s about fueling recovery, supporting overall health, and bouncing back stronger than ever. So the next time you’re down with a cold or flu, remember these simple tips and treat your body well. It’s not a setback; it’s an opportunity to come back stronger.
No one knows your body better than you do. Pay attention to what it’s telling you, and consult a healthcare professional when needed. And as always, reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns. We’re here to support you, in and out of the gym. Get well soon, Fringies!