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Can certain foods boost the immune system for cyclists?

Yes, a nutrient-rich diet can boost immune function and reduce infection risk in fanatic cyclists. To take action: ensure adequate intakes of energy, carbs, fluids, vitamins and minerals.

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Written by: The Athlete’s FoodCoach, on 19-10-2023
Colourfull pokebowl recipe with salmon, eggs, corn, cucomber, tomato and edamame beans

Why is nutrition important to boost my immune system?

Intense rides lasting 90 minutes or more and periods of hard training with limited recovery and low energy intake, can temporarily weaken parts of the immune system. In addition, persistent physical or physiological stress elevates stress hormones and anti-inflammatory cytokine levels. These factors increases the risk of picking up minor illnesses, especially URTIs in athletes and reduces the body's ability to fight off infections like colds and flu. Certain nutrients can mitigate these risks, relieve symptoms, and boost the immune system.

How do I get my nutrition on point to boost my immune system?

Ensure you consume a varied diet tailored to your individual needs, which will assist you in monitoring these five aspects:

  1. Carb intake: Carbs serve as fuel for your immune cells. Ensure sufficient carb intake before, especially during and after a 90min+ moderate to high intensity ride to keep your immune system strong and decrease the risk of overreaching.
  2. Stay hydrated: Dehydration heightens stress hormones and can reduce saliva's antimicrobial properties. Drink at regular intervals to prevent dehydration and support your immune system.
  3. Key vitamins and antioxidants: Key vitamins like vitamin C and A support infection resistance. High doses of antioxidants (vitamin C and E) potentially reduce stress response during prolonged exercise, however this might hinder training adaptation. Focusing on a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is the best approach for safe intakes of key vitamin and antioxidants.
  4. Maintain energy balance: Maintaining energy balance supports sufficient nutrient and energy intake to strengthen your immune system and making it better prepared to fend off illnesses.
  5. Healthy fats: Some studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce exercise-induced inflammation and improve immune function in non-athletes. However, the evidence regarding their impact on athletes is inconclusive.

With the FoodCoach app you create a varied daily nutrition plan tailored to your individual needs and demanding training schedule, boosting your immune system and reducing the risk of infections.

Example of The Athlete's FoodCoach app

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