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How to boost your immune system for better athletic performance

In winter, boosting your immune system is essential. For athletes, this is an even more important step in order to ensure the proper functioning of the body in general, reduce the risk of injury and finally, improve performance.
Nutrition santé
Comment booster son système immunitaire pour de meilleures performances sportives

During winter, boosting your immune system is essential. For athletes, this is an even more important step to ensure the proper functioning of the body in general, reduce the risk of injury and finally, improve performance.


What are immune defenses?

In general terms, the immune system is our first natural defense against disease. It fights against the passage of bacteria and other viruses into the body. In winter, it is even more important to strengthen your immune system, due to the quantity of viruses circulating in the air. Indeed, the survival of certain viruses (in particular that of the flu) is favored when the air is humid and cold.

When a virus enters the body, the elements considered foreign to the body (called antigens) are then taken care of by the cells and organs of the immune system, I called the immune defenses. This reaction involves:

  • So-called lymphoid organs: red bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen, thymus.
  • Cells such as leukocytes (white blood cells), lymphocytes and phagocytic cells from lymphoid organs.

In order to practice regular sporting activity, it is important to help your body fight against everyday ailments, which could damage energy in the long term. In addition, an efficient and boosted immune system allows for better performance, reduces the risk of injury during intense efforts, and helps with recovery.

Strengthening the immune system in athletes is beneficial for:

  • Ensure the proper functioning of the body and perform
  • Defend against weakening muscles, bones and skin
  • Allow good assimilation of nutrients
  • Reduce fatigue and exhaustion
  • Facilitate recovery

Sport tests the immune system

According to several scientific studies [1], it has been proven that practicing intensive sporting activity weakens the immune system. Indeed, when an athlete produces a significant effort, he draws on his body's energy, produced by the assimilation of nutrients and micronutrients. These are the vitamins and other antioxidants which will activate the production of white blood cells such as B and T lymphocytes and macrophages, essential for the production of antibodies which will destroy microbes or bad bacteria.

When the body does not have sufficient reserves of essential nutrients, it is said to suffer from a “deficiency”. However, an athlete draws much more from his nutritional reserves than a person with normal needs. This is why it can happen in certain cases that the latter suffers from a lack, in particular of vitamins and minerals.

A magnesium deficiency, for example, will cause notable effects on health and well-being, such as at the muscular level, which will result in cramps, muscle pain, and a reduction in sporting and recovery abilities. A situation of deficiency thus causes a weakening of the immune system.

Sport can also boost the immune system

But sport doesn't just tap our reserves of vitality, in fact, it helps provide us with them too. It is often said that a little sport in the morning can give us energy for the whole day. Practicing regular physical activity then makes it possible to boost the immune system during and after exercise but also to reduce stress hormones. However, stress has always been shown to be a disruptive element in our body and our mental and physical well-being. In addition, scientific studies [2] have confirmed that chronic stress can actually harm the proper functioning of the immune system. Sport would thus help to fight against periods of stress and the weakening of the body in general.

Be careful, however, not to overdo it, because when the effort is intense, the production of cells, such as lymphocytes, increases very quickly and then decreases or even disappears after the effort.

Vitamins and minerals, unstoppable defenses of the immune system

Responsible for the production of white blood cells, vitamins and minerals play an important role in strengthening the immune system. As seen previously, athletes training regularly and/or intensely use more of their micronutrient reserves in order to maintain good physical performance.

Vitamin D , also called “the sunshine vitamin”, is one of the main vitamins on the run during the winter. The cause: the lack of sunlight, and particularly the lack of UVB which contributes to the supply of 80% of vitamin D. However, vitamin D constitutes a key factor in immunity. In particular, it helps to better combat stress, improve nerve transmission and ensure good muscle contraction [3]. A study has proven that vitamin D supplementation helps promote a strong immune response and limits excess inflammation [4].

Vitamin C , known for its anti-oxidant properties and its protective effects for the immune system, is essential for athletes. It participates in the renewal of white blood cells and helps actively protect the body from external attacks. One study even claims that it can reduce the duration of a cold and in certain cases, stop its progression [5].

Iron is a vital element for the proper functioning of the body, it allows the transport of oxygen in the body, the formation of red blood cells and the regeneration of lymphocytes. It effectively improves immune defenses.

Magnesium is a mineral that plays an important role in the functioning of our body and has many virtues. In athletes, it helps maintain muscle mass, reduce muscle damage and better fight inflammation. In addition, it is a muscle relaxant and a powerful stress reliever. It also participates in the transformation of carbohydrates and lipids into ATP, energy usable by our muscle cells.

Zinc helps reduce the incidence of inflammation caused by intense exercise and strengthens the immune system. These benefits allow the athlete to maintain their performance over the long term.

Selenium is a trace element with antioxidant properties which plays an essential role in metabolic reactions. In addition to vitamin C, it facilitates the regeneration of immune system cells. Thanks to its antioxidant function it also helps fight free radicals which results in less muscle damage after training [6].

Our advice for other products:

Our Immune Health mixes have been specially designed to strengthen the athlete's immune system. The Men's Immune Health formula is a strengthened version of the Multivitamin with added essential minerals and Vitamin K2-MK7. The Women's Immune Health is an iron reinforced version, designed to meet the needs of women.

[1] Matheus Pintanel Silva de Freitas. (2016). The Effect of Different Volumes of Physical Exercise on the Immune System. Federal University of Pelotas.

[2] Paola D’Adamo. (2019). Mindfulness, Empathy and Social Integration. Its Relationship With Chonic Stress. National Council of Scientific and Technical Research.

[3] Medical University of Gdansk. (2021). The Effect of Probiotics and Vitamin D Supplementation on Sport Performance in MMA Athletes . Gdansk University of Physical Education and Sport.

[4] University Hospital. (2015). Vitamin D Supplementation and the Immune Response . Clermont-Ferrand.

[5] Harri Hemila and Elizabeth Chalker. (2013). Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.

[6] Dr.Eyal Shargal.Wingate Institute. (2014). Physical Fitness Effect on the Different Oxidative Stress Measurements. Tel Aviv University.

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