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Sick Of It

athlete-fatigueDo you work out, eat well and take care of yourself yet often find you are sick or tired all the time?

Despite taking such good care of your body, if you are an avid exerciser and fitness enthusiast you can actually break down your immune system with overtraining. Many factors associated with overtraining compromise an athlete’s immune system. In fact, upper respiratory infections are actually very common in athletes.

This was a big topic during the training for my Nutrition Certification I just completed this past week. Let’s break it down.

What Happens?
When you exercise, there is an increase in stress hormones which leads to high inflammatory markers (bi-products of chronic stress). There is also a decrease in innate and acquired immunity.

Interesting Fact: 90 minutes after strenuous activity, your immunity is the lowest and you are more apt to get sick! It’s important to refrain from putting your hands near your mouth or eyes (the most susceptible areas of the body) post exercise & wash your hands immediately.

How Do I Keep The Sickness and Fatigue Away?

Protein
Protein is a key component to building immunity. Make sure you are getting adequate amounts. Your daily protein intake should be between 0.8-1.8 grams per 2.2 lbs. The high or low range depends on your activity level. An average adult needs about 0.8 – 1.2 g/2.2 lbs. where a strength athlete needs between 1.4-1.8 g/2.2 lbs.

Example: For a 150 pound active woman: divide 150 by 2.2lbs and multiply that number by about 1.2 grams of protein. Total = 82 grams of protein per day.

Vitamins and Minerals
There are several vitamins and minerals that work as anti-oxidants and help keep your immunity strong including Vitamin A, E, B6, B12, C and Folic Acid. Zinc and Iron are also important, but they should be ingested in moderation as too much can actually have the opposite effect and lower immunity. Most of these vitamins/minerals can be ingested in the food you eat: green leafy veggies, beans, eggs, dairy, lean meats, fruits and whole grains.

Ingest Carbs
Eating carbs post-exercise is said to help build your immune system and reduce stress hormones. We are not talking about eating a box of crackers or bag of pretzels – try to keep to “real” foods such as fruits, veggies and healthy grains.

Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is critical to helping your body function. Dehydration can be the main reason for fatigue. When you exercise, especially in hotter weather, it’s important to rehydrate 125-150% of fluid loss during exercise. Thirst is regulated in the brain. You are already very dehydrated when you even begin to feel thirsty.  You have to stay ahead of it.

Probiotics
I have professed my belief in probiotics for years – studies suggest probiotic and prebiotic ingestion in athletes reduces sick days.

Polyphenols
Polyphenols are abundant micronutrients in our diet, and evidence for their role in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases is emerging. They are said to be great stress inhibitors and promote immunity. These can be found in foods like kale, hot peppers, onion, apples, etc. Here is a list of 100 richest dietary sources of polyphenols.

Sleep
As I preach to my clients all the time, adequate rest is crucial for an athlete’s recovery and keeps stress hormones low and repairs mental and physical function. Consistent sleep patterns and getting enough sleep to repair your body is crucial in keeping your immunity & performance levels high and stress hormones low.

Stress
And of course, keeping regular stress at bay is a big component. The more stressed you are, the lower your immunity levels and higher your fatigue. Your body may even start to hold onto some fat. The unfortunate result is when we are chronically stressed by life crises and work-life demands, we are prone to getting an extra layer of “visceral fat” deep in our bellies.

Nutrition is a big component of your day to day. It dictates everything – how your body responds to stress, your energy level and a strong immune system. Getting enough anti-oxidants, keeping stress levels in control and being able to replenish & repair your body are key to optimizing your health and energy levels.

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Give To Live

giveThe holidays are synonymous with giving – which is often more about the gifts under the tree.  I have tried to make it a point to teach my children to be grateful and to appreciate what they have, recognizing that others are not as fortunate. I explain that doing an act to help others can be so fulfilling. What I have found in this journey is that every deed connects to another and has beneficial effects to our health and the health of others.

It can be as simple as holding the door open for someone, smiling at the cashier during the insane Christmas buying rush and maybe even buying someone a cup of coffee in line next to you.

Recently, my daughter bought and made presents for the members of Sage Eldercare in Summit to help brighten their holiday. The reaction from the elderly was tranquilizing. One woman, who was the spitting image of my grandmother, did not hesitate and smothered both my children in kisses and hugs as if they were her own grandchildren – even so much as trying to offer them money! I left the facility bawling.

There is a scientific benefit to good-doing. A “helper’s high” could help you live a longer, healthier life. Think about the rush you get after helping someone – and the effect it has on that person’s life. Research shows that when we act on the behalf of others, we help them feel greater comfort and less stress. The same goes for the do-gooder – along with a sense of gratification of helping someone.

The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (yes, that’s a real thing) created a comprehensive investigation of altruism. Two large studies found that those who volunteered were living longer than non-volunteers. In fact, there was a 44% reduction in early death among those who volunteered a lot.

When we stress, physiological changes happen to our bodies that cause our heart rate to increase and our immune and cardiovascular systems to be weakened, making us more susceptible to abnormal cellular changes. Good deeds help us reduce stress by thwarting this effect. The high we get from helping creates a lowered stress response and improved immunity (higher levels of protective antibodies). It is said to also affect beneficial brain chemicals. Oxytocin, a feel-good hormone, levels go up when we do something good, which helps relieve our stress hormone levels. It has also been proven to lower blood pressure and have an overall calming effect. Ultimately, creating a positive emotional state through do-gooding may help lengthen your life.

So for this holiday season, counteract any negativity generated from the hectic-ness of the holiday season with positive emotions and good deeds – it will change you and the world around you. Just think of the trickle-down effect.

Happy holidays.

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  • Cara

    The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer someone else up – mark Twain

  • maria

    This is a great blog entry! Merry Christmas to you and your family! Oxoxox

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It’s Not Just a Luxury

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting a woman named Helga. She was my masseuse. She was in her 70’s and one of the strongest, healthiest, wisest women I have ever met.

In a matter of an hour, she taught me life philosophies, including not taking things so seriously and taking care of your body as a top priority. She believes women take too much time taking care of others, and not enough time taking care of themselves.  And guilt is over-rated.

Working for many spas in my marketing career, I knew the importance of rejuvenating your body and healing, but I always looked at treatments as a luxury and felt massage2so guilty when I did indulge. Helga reiterated to me the importance of massage and how many cultures require family members to massage themselves daily to ensure their bodies functions optimally.

For the first time, it really resonated with me that massage may not just be a luxury, but a necessity. Massage has been a healing technique since ancient civilizations.

What does massage do for you?

Massage is the manipulation of layers of muscle and connective tissue using various techniques. It enhances muscle function, aids in healing, decreases muscle reflex activity and promotes relaxation and well-being. Specifically it can help:

  • Alleviate low-back pain and improve range of motion.
  • Enhance immunity by activating the body’s natural defense system.
  • Exercise and stretch weak, tight or atrophied muscles.
  • Improve circulation by pumping oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs.
  • Help athletes prepare for or recover from strenuous activity.
  • Increase joint flexibility.
  • Lessen depression and anxiety.
  • Relieve pain and migraines by releasing endorphins – the body’s natural painkiller.
  • Promote tissue regeneration to reduce scar tissue and stretch marks.
  • Assist with shorter, easier labor for expectant mothers.

My advice? Make an appointment for your next massage and consider scheduling them monthly. Dare I say I have appointments for 3 this month?? That’s a first.

Just a reminder…Skin Deep Salon & Spa is one of our discounted favorites. You receive a 10% discount when you show your Heels to Laces VIP discount card.  Another favorite masseuse is Sharon Priore – she works out of the Summit Y: slpriore@yahoo.com.

If you have other recommendations, please share them by adding a comment to this post.

To leave a comment on this article or any other blog entry, please fill in the “Leave a Comment” box under each blog entry on our site: Heels to Laces

  • lisa

    Love a good massage.

  • Lisa

    Thanks for the great tips!

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