You’re super fit and workout all of the time. You’ve got nothing to worry about.
This is a message that circulates the world of athletics and fitness whenever there’s sickness making its way around. The basis of these kinds of sayings are well-meaning in heart, but misleading in factuality.
Fitness does not equal immunity
The association between fitness and health has been misconstrued and redefined by judgments based on waistlines and mile times rather than assessing one’s nutrient intake.
What’s wrong about these assumptions is the belief that fitness inclination equals a strong immune response. An athlete's fitness does not reflect the competency of their immune system.
While fitness certainly disinhibits the immune system, solely relying on fitness for supersizing immunity will leave you sparingly incompetent for living a life full of vitality and long-lasting health. Moreover, a resilient immune system enhances athletic performance more than Runner’s World and Sports Illustrated accredit it to.
An under functioning immune system doesn't just belong to those who have been formally diagnosed with a disease or who are being treated with certain immune-suppressing drugs such as chemotherapy. Anyone that is depleted of the keystone immune-building nutrients meets the classifications for having a weak immune system. A smooth-operating immune system is contingent upon what you are feeding it.
What are you feeding your body?
A common phrase often heard is “it’s not that bad for you”.
Let’s get one thing straight. There are two ways that your body recognizes foods; either as nutrients (beneficial) or antinutrients (destructive). “It’s not that bad” adheres to the common mistake people make in thinking there is an in between concerning foods in grocery stores or restaurants.
When food is metabolized, there is no place in the body for the “it’s not that bad” category. Food has powerful consequences that either fortify or suppress immunity. If you hear that phrase describing a food, odds are it is not doing anything beneficial for health development. The psychological games we play with ourselves in attempting to rationalize unhealthy eating habits results in immune impairment.
“It is gluten-free” “It is locally made” “It is organic” “it is advertised to build muscle” are dangerous advertisements that taint our definition of health.
These advertisements are nothing but empty words to our immune systems and the thousands of biochemical reactions that depend on nutrients for maintaining immune homeostasis.
Given that the typical American diet is composed of vegetable oils and refined sugars and flours, most Americans meet the defining standards for having a suboptimal immune system: nutrient deficiencies.
5 Things No Athletes Wants in Their Supplements
Are the supplements you are taking performing in concert with what is written on the label? Many self-aware athletes utilize multivitamins and “performance-enhancing” supplements thinking they are enhancing their immune vibrance.
However, when schooled on the implications of pseudo-nutrients and anti-nutrients they realize their pills, tablets and powders may be driving them in the opposite direction of supreme health and performance.
Anti-nutrients in your supplements
It is unfortunate, but most supplements contain a surplus of anti-nutrients. Anti-nutrients can be defined as anything that lessens the value of your nutrient stores while simultaneously promoting metabolic dysfunction.
Labeling something to be performance enhancing, but when later metabolized, causes more harm than good, deceptively leads athletes to make decisions that deteriorate their immune systems. In turn, this ultimately stunts athletic potential.
False advertisement is illegal and the supplement world needs to be held to stricter standards when developing supplements that are marketed for athletic gain. Cornerstone ingredients of these crude-in-quality and sexy-in-branding companies include:
- Synthetic Vitamins: obstructs endurance capacity by weakening the mitochondria and hinders antioxidant response in the body.
- Artificial Food Coloring: known carcinogens derived from petroleum, accredited to increased carcinogenicity, genotoxicity, and hypersensitivity.
- Altered, Unnatural Caffeine: stimulates an irregular and overactive heartbeat, habitual consumption leads to a defective heart and a hijacked circulatory system.
- Isolated Protein Powder: the isolation process excludes nearly all micronutrients from protein, cumbersome to the digestive system.
- Vegetable Oils: ignites a wildfire of inflammation via free-radical cascades, penetrates cell membranes then destroys the mitochondria.
Just to reiterate, most vitamins and supplements found at GNC, Whole Foods, and Costco initiate immune destruction so it is paramount that we shun the ingredients above to accelerate immune health.
To further illustrate, one can analyze several foundational nutrients that a lively immune system necessitates that most people (especially athletes) lack.
5 key nutrients every athlete needs
Zinc: crucial for normal development and function of cells mediating innate immunity, neutrophils, and NK cells. Phagocytosis, intracellular killing, and cytokine production all are affected by zinc deficiency1. It should be known that zinc stores decrease as a result of intense exercise2.
Iron: the role of iron in immunity is necessary for immune cell proliferation and maturation, particularly lymphocytes, associated with the generation of a specific response to infection3. Iron levels lessen significantly when exercise is induced on a regular basis. Iron deficiency is the most widespread nutritional deficiency impacting the world, and endurance athletes are especially susceptible to being deficient in this immune-building nutrient4.
Vitamin D: vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses. Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased susceptibility to infection5. The omnipresence of vitamin D deficiency should be concerning to anyone, especially to athletes; knowing that vitamin D absorption plunges via reduced magnesium and calcium concentrations as a result of strenuous exercise6,7.
The nutrients that constitute a thriving immune system cannot be seen in the gym mirror or on a bathroom scale.
If you’re an outstanding runner with low vitamin D levels, you have an unideal immune system. If you can deadlift 500 pounds but are deficient of zinc, you’re predisposed to disadvantageous outcomes when your immunity is tested. If you’re a fitness model with washboard abs but depleted of iron, you’re practically defenseless.
These two minerals and one vitamin exemplify just three prerequisite nutrients that are needed for immune health and knowing that exercise decreases these nutrients should alert all athletes.
Furthermore, optimizing these nutrients will result in athletic supremacy.
Optimize immunity for athletic performance
Instead of building a flourishing immune system for the sole purpose of avoiding sickness, athletes should also be looking to amplify their immunity to potentiate athleticism.
Since we know that that being deficient in immune-modulating nutrients begets unengaged immunity and downregulated athletic performance, could we assume that being proficient in these nutrients could enhance athletic performance? The answer is YES!
Optimizing nutrients stores such as zinc, iron and vitamin D will significantly increase your chances of athletic dominance.
Sufficient levels of zinc accelerate muscle regeneration and the hormone production of testosterone and growth hormone8,9. Optimizing iron will levitate oxygen transportation, promote ATP synthase and increase lactate threshold10 Idyllic vitamin D levels support anaerobic exercise and heighten muscular power11.
These are just three examples of the ways which optimizing nutrients will enhance performance. There are hundreds of nutrients which we require for immune health and if athletes look to optimize these nutrients, we’ll see effects that parallel the results of performance-enhancing drugs but without being illegal.
Cultivating immunity that stems vitality and vibrancy through nutrient-dense foods and supplements designed for athletes’ needs will refine a body not only ready to fight off foreign invaders, but also an athlete capable of achieving their athletic goals.