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By Sean Van Staden


Build your immune system this winter

You can’t get away from viruses, they are tiny and invisible to the naked eye and they are just about everywhere

Winter has now arrived albeit late, I am sure you have had the sniffles, mild coughing cold or the man down man flu. If you haven’t yet had any of these, you had better build that immune system so that your internal soldiers are amped and strong enough to go to war for you.

You can’t get away from viruses, they are tiny and invisible to the naked eye and they are just about everywhere. It is equivalent to walking through a field of landmines during a war. It is no longer a question of if but rather when.

If you are a competing athlete, the only thing worse than getting sick before a competition is getting injured. What can be done to build your immune system, so that if you do get sick, your turn- around time is quicker?

First off, you need to take care of the three biggest factors causing you to have a weaker immune system. They should be simple to name, and yes, you have guessed it: adequate sleep, good nutrition and avoid over training.

Having less than 8 hours of quality sleep a night will cause havoc on your immune system. You are training like a machine during the day and at night your body can’t wait to go to sleep so it can start the repair process.

Your body technically uses less energy at night, than during the day and therefore all the energy focuses on restoration of your damaged cells and muscles. Missing just one hour of quality sleep a night for a week means you have missed out on almost a day of sleep.

Clean eating is very important to building more action fighting white cells. Increase your protein intake to a minimum of 1.6 grams per kilogram per day. Good fats are essential and rule of thumb, anything that is fried, is not good fat. That is saturated fat and it is bad for you. Focus on unsaturated fats because it aids in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins.

Last but not least, for the nutrition part, is to reduce your carbohydrate intake. Excess carbs store as fat and also the reason that the body is working overtime in trying to process the carbs. Exercise is fantastic in building a stronger immune system. Your lung capacity and oxygen intake increases and your body naturally flushes out the toxins. Basically making your engine, aka the body, more efficient to run.

A fitter body allows you to fight better and to recover faster. Overtraining comes in when you are doing the same thing over and over and it starts to irritate you because of the monotony. Our bodies are impressive machines, and if you just watch how some human beings compete in the ironman, you will soon realise what we are capable of.

Overtraining can be defined as doing too much too soon. Your body is so busy trying to repair damaged cells and the rate of damaged cells being repaired leaves your body not producing enough soldiers to fight off the viruses. Your body is left vulnerable to infection and when you get infected, it is worse than normal because your body is already so weak.

It is all about balance and having a game plan. For the average Joe, just focusing on these areas will keep you fighting the good fight but for the more competitive athlete, you need to have a more tailored approach, almost a daily ritual-like approach to keeping your environment as constant and predictable as possible which will yield more perpetual results.

Sean Van Staden

Sean Van Staden is the proud husband of an amazing woman and mom and the ‘Daddy Pig’ – (thank you Pepper Pig for brainwashing my children, in a good way) – of two little Gremlins, Jordan and Haylee, who are fast approaching three and four years of age. In his quest to give his children the tools to succeed, Sean’s blog tackles topics of nutrition, physical development, exercise, mental toughness, building confidence, self-esteem, sport, wellness, and just about anything that will help his children, and hopefully yours, grow in the right direction.

You can find Sean at ASP – Sports Science


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