If we want to get fitter and stronger, we need to train hard enough to get our body’s attention. However, there’s a fine line between a healthy exercise stress response, and a damaging stress response.
When it comes to exercise, we think more is better. More cardio, more squats, more calorie restriction. But if you’re not careful, “more” can lead to overtraining, injury and eventually illness.
That old mantra: Go hard or go home. But the truth of the matter is, if you live by this mantra, often you have to go home, and stay home.
Your body can actually handle a tremendous amount of work… but only if you recover properly and fully from that work.
Your stress-recovery pattern should look like rolling hills: For every up (training or life stress) there’s a down (recovery). For every intense workout, there’s an equally intense focus on activities that help your body repair and rebuild.
Know this: You don’t get to decide if you need recovery or not. Your body will decide for you.
If you don’t build recovery into your plan, your body will eventually force it.
The more extreme your overtraining, the more you’ll “pay” via illness, injury, or exhaustion. The more severe the payback, the more “time off” you’ll need from exercise. That’s a bummer.
Think of training like making withdrawals from a “body bank account.” The more intense the training, the bigger the withdrawal.
The effect of exercise on immunity
When it comes to how training/exercise affect immunity, key variables include:
- Exercise duration
- Exercise frequency
- Exercise intensity
- Sleep (poor sleep means less immunity)
- The overall capacity of the exerciser (how robust they already are)
How someone trains, and how they factor in recovery, will play a huge role on their immune system.
- Consistent, moderate exercise and resistance training can strengthen the immune system over time, BUT
- Chronic high-intensity or long duration exercise sessions with minimal recovery (go hard or go home), can interfere with immune function.
So, when you are feeling flat or run down, you need to take it easy!
Nearly every week I get asked by my clients what nutritional supplements I take to stay ahead of the game and best support my immune system, particularly as I train my clients from such early to late hours of the day, as well as getting in my own training sessions.
Supplemental Nutrients to Improve and Support the Immune Function
Zinc is arguably the most important mineral for the immune system. A zinc deficiency causes a dramatic impairment in the body’s ability to properly respond to microbial infections. Zinc, combined with Vitamin C and Vitamin D, are nutrients that are fundamental to good health. Together, Zinc, Vitamin C and Vitamin D provide effective support for the immune system.
Japanese mushrooms, including, Coriolus, Reishi and Shiitake, enhance the body’s immune response and provide antiviral and antibacterial actions thereby supporting recovery from acute and recurrent infections, while increasing resistance to infectious illness.
Most importantly, you can take all the supplements and medicinal herbs in the world, but ultimately, you need to be factoring in good quality nutrition, sleep and active recovery days.