With the weather changing, colds and flu bugs are in the air. It’s hard to be-lieve but exercisers and athletes, despite their healthy regimens, can be very susceptible to infections, since train-ing can deplete the body’s antioxidant defenses. So in this month’s column, I want to amplify what Dr. Sheats has to say in his column on recovery nutri-tion, particularly on the supplements we recommend to shore up immunity. In certain circumstances, exercise can suppress your immune system, which is your defense against infec-tions and illness, by altering hormon-al and biochemical functions in the body. Not to worry, though: In most situations, exercise does the oppo-site. It enhances your immune system.
But what of those cases where ex-ercise impairs immune defenses? According to scientific research, these can occur under the following circum-stances (1): 1 . You’re under mental stress . 2 .You’reundernourished . (Research indicates athletes con-sume about 25 percent fewer calories than they need, leading to deficien-cies of many essential nutrients.) (2) 3. You exercise in a carbohydrate-depleted state (this increases the cir-culation of stress hormones in your body, plus harms immune-pro-tective substances in the body). 4. You’ve attempted quick weight loss through caloric deprivation. 5. You’ve practiced improper hygiene. The good news is that you can protect yourself from infections with improved nutrition and life-style practices. Here’s a look at how:1. Supplement with extra carbsSupplementation with carbohydrate bev-erages – before, during, and after exercise – has been shown to strengthen immune responses.
For example, it reduces levels of the hormone cortisol in blood. That’s good, since cortisol suppresses immune response. Carbohydrate supplementation also appears to protect various types of immune cells from weakening. (3) If you’re on the Parrillo Nutrition Pro-gram™ a good supplement choice is our ProCarb™ Formula, which can be used before, during, and after a workout. 2. Consume whey protein supplementsResearch shows that whey protein diets increase the amount of glutathione in body tissues. Glutathione is a peptide (an amino acid derivative) that is involved in strengthening immunity. The elevation of glutathione has been shown to inhibit the development of several types of tu-mors, according to numerous studies. (4) Whey protein is found in the following products: Optimized Whey Protein™, Hi-Protein Powder™, 50/50 Plus Powder™, All-Protein™ Powder, Parrillo Sports Nutrition Bars™, Parrillo Protein Bars™, and Parrillo Energy Bars™ .3.
Beware of the “overtraining myth”“Overtraining” refers to poor perfor-mance in training and competition, and its symptoms include fatigue, frequent ill-ness, disturbed sleep, and moodiness. (5) Overtraining, however, is simply “un-derrecovery” or “undereating” – not taking in enough nutrients to fully re-cover from your workouts. If ample nu-trients are not provided, intense work-outs won’t do much good. But once you get in the habit of making your nutrition as intense as your training, your workouts will be much more produc-tive, and you’ll see results much quicker. Make sure you remain in a calorie surplus – that is, eating ample calories and taking in supplemental nutrients to support your energy needs throughout the day. Follow a high-calorie nutrition program, and you should have enough energy stamina to blast through any workout, regardless of how long or intense it is. You’ll also have enough recuperative power to sustain you from workout to workout, without any compromise of energy or immune function.4.
Take AntioxidantsAntioxidants are nutrients found in foods and supplements that protect the body from the onslaught of dis-ease-causing free radicals. Free radical damage has been implicated in diseas-es such as cancer and heart disease . Fortunately, free radicals aren’t al-lowed to do their bad deeds without being policed. They’re appre-hended by the antioxidant nutrients, which include vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene, and certain minerals and en-zymes . These nutrients simply donate an electron to a free radical but without changing into a radical itself. This ac-tion “neutralizes,” or stops the dangerous multiplication of still more free radicals. Supplementing with antioxidant nutrients has been found in research to help protect the body against age-related diseases. You get vitamins A and E by eating a diet rich in vegetables and whole grains. Vitamin A, in particular, is found in yellow and orange foods, such as yams – a bodybuild-ing staple. Nutritionists feel that our diets don’t supply all the vitamin E needed for good health. Thus, supplementation of Parrillo Natural E™ is recommended .
By following the Parrillo Nutrition Pro-gram™ and supplementing with the Parrillo Essential Vitamin Formula™ and the Par-rillo Mineral-Electrolyte Formula™ you supply your body with the antioxidant vita-mins and minerals it needs for good health. 5. Try arginineArginine is considered a non-essential ami-no acid, meaning the body can synthesize it from proteins and other nutrients. Despite the fact that arginine is labeled non-essen-tial, it has a number of important functions in the body, including the fortification of the immune system. In studies with ani-mals and humans, arginine has been found to improve wound healing and bolster immune responses, plus reduce the inci-dence of infection following surgery. (6,7) Arginine has other duties, as well. It is re-quired to manufacture creatine, an impor-tant chemical in the muscles that provides the energy for contractions.
In addition, Arginine apparently helps prevent the body from breaking down protein in muscles and organs to repair itself when injured. Meat, poultry, and fish are good sources of arginine, as are numerous supplements, including our Enhanced GH Formula™ and our Ultimate Amino Formula™. 6. Get in the zinc syncZinc has far-reaching roles in the body. For example, it helps absorb vitamins; break down carbohydrates; and regulate the growth and development of repro-ductive organs. Zinc is also an impor-tant immune-boosting mineral, involved in making superoxide dismutase (SOD), an antioxidant enzyme that inactivates certain free radicals. Zinc, however, can be depleted by prolonged, high-intensity exercise if you’re poorly nourished. Be-cause zinc is required for the activity of several enzymes involved in energy me-tabolism, reductions in zinc concentrations in muscle may lead to muscle fatigue.(8)
The best sources of zinc are lean pro-teins, whole grains, and mineral supple-ments. Zinc is one of the minerals found in our Mineral-Electrolyte Formula™ . 7. Manage athletic stressHard-training bodybuilders and athletes can succumb to the immune-weakening effects of stress just like anyone else. Here are some ways to prevent this (9): • Vary your training routine to avoid monotony . • Space your comp- etitions appropriately so as to not place undue burden on your recovery and im-mune responses . • Practice stress reduction strategies such as relaxation if you’re contin-ually stressed out over competition. • Get adequate rest and recovery. • Reduce environmental stress by limiting the time you train in heat, cold, humidity, or polluted air . • Practice good hygiene to limit the transmission of contagious illnesses. • Get regular medical check-ups if you have recurrent infections.
1. Nieman, D.C. 1997. Ex-ercise immunology: practical ap-plications. International Journal of Sports Medicine 18: S91-S100.
2. Venkatraman, J.T., et al. 2000. Dietary fats and immune sta-tus in athletes: clinical implica-tions . Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 32: S389-S395.
3. Nieman, D.C. 1999. Nutrition, exercise, and immune system function. Clinics in Sports Medicine 18: 537-548 .
4 . Bounous, G ., et al . Whey proteins in cancer preven-tion . Cancer Letter 57: 91-94 .
5. MacKinnon, L.T. 2000. Spe-cial feature for the Olympics: effects of exercise on the immune system: overtraining effects on immunity and performance in athletes. Immunol-ogy and Cell Biology 78: 502-509 .
6. Barbul, A., et al. 1990. Ar-ginine enhances wound healing and lymphocyte immune responses in humans . Surgery 108: 331-336 .
7. Evoy, D. 1998. Im-munonutrition: the role of ar-ginine. Nutrition 14: 611-617.
8. Cordova, A. 1995. Behav-iour of zinc in physical exercise: a special references to immunity and fatigue. Neuroscience and Biobe-havorial Reviews 19: 439-445.
9 . Gleeson, M . 2000 . The scien-tific basis of practical strategies to main-tain the immunocompetence in elite athletes. Exercise Immunology Review 6: 75-101 .