35% of you will be knocked out by the common cold. That’s why it’s so common and most people just accept that it is going to happen rather than attempting to prevent it.
Would you think otherwise if we told you that this can affect your performance, training adaptation and have a negative affect on the whole training camp?
Dr Mayur Ranchordas continues to share advice in his second article on how to improve immunity.
This Article Will
- Recap of the basics
- Review the use of supplements for immunity
- We save you money by highlighting the non-effective supplements for immunity
Get the basics right
An upper respiratory tract infection (URTI – mainly known as the common cold) is bad news for boxers. In part 1, we covered the basics that every boxer should do to prevent illness, such as getting the right amount of sleep, correct timing of carbohydrates and maintaining hand hygiene.
Another basic method to mention is the periodisation of training. An accumulation of monotonous and excessive training loads can increase the likelihood of fatigue, injury and illness.
For the rest of part 1, click here.
There is emerging evidence that probiotics may help protect immunity in humans. There has been some research conducted in athletes which has demonstrated promising results but as always, more data is needed.
This study found that athletes taking two Yakult servings (one in the morning and one in the evening) over a 4 month period in the winter helped protect the immune system. This was a good study because 84 well trained endurance athletes took part and the group receiving the Yakult had 50% less episodes of infection.
Example: Yakult, Actimel, Danone. From all major supermarkets.
Tip: Two servings of probiotics a day over the winter months or during training camp (morning and night).
There is strong evidence to suggest that very pale, very dark, and indoor-based athletes may have insufficient levels of vitamin D. Apart from outdoor running, the majority boxing exercise is performed indoors, so listen up.
There is evidence that low vitamin D levels are related to infections such as the common cold.
It is recommended that athletes should get their Vitamin D levels tested and the appropriate supplement dose taken to correct any insufficiencies.
Tip: Suns out, guns out. Go for a 10-20 minute walk to expose your skin to some sunlight to top up vitamin D levels.
Caution: Practical advice regarding vitamin D is complex therefore, I suggest you seek professional advice regarding vitamin D.
A recent study found that taking zinc syrup, tablets or lozenges can lessen the effects and duration of the common cold (Singh and Das 2011) .
They found that taking zinc within a day of the onset of cold symptoms speeds recovery. It was also found that zinc could help ward off colds.
Tip: When you get cold symptoms, take a maximum of 11 mg zinc lozengers as soon as possible (read the label).
Caution: Be cautious when taking zinc because long-term zinc use can become toxic.
Furthermore, the research concluded that the dosage needed was unclear. Now this is a bit of a concern because excessive amounts of zinc can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
With this in mind, it is not worth taking zinc prior to a cold as it risks becoming toxic, and when you do, read the label so you do not exceed 11 mg.
Quercetin is a plant-derived flavonoid found in fruits, vegetables, leaves and grains. The evidence is mixed as always, however, there are enough well-controlled studies that suggest it could have a positive effect in reducing illness rates during heavy training.
This study found that 1000 mg of quercetin with 120 mg of epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG – found in Green Tea) had protective effects in 39 cyclists undergoing 3 days of heavy exertion.
A position statement on immunity does recommend that quercetin supplementation can augment some aspects of immune function and reduce illness rates in highly active athletes.
Tip: Quercetin is combined with other flavanoids, green tea and fish oil, it can have positive effects in reducing illness rates. Look for quercetin that provides 100 mg per day and it should be for 2-3 weeks during heavy training or during periods of high susceptibility.
Caution: Some quercetin supplements have added ingredient such as Vitamin C. Avoid these as you will read later on this post, Vitamin C is not effective.
Boxing Science saves you money
Everything we write on Boxing Science is supported by evidence and reliable data.
However there are a lot of information and products out there that will try to pull the wool over your eyes. If you are looking to improve your immune system, do not waste your money on the following supplements.
Vitamin C – No better than a placebo. Not recommended. Save your money!
Vitamin E – Unless there is a deficiency not recommended
Multivitamin – Not recommended. Save your money!
Glutamine – Evidence is conflicting and some researchers don’t recommend it.
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) – Not recommended. Save your money!
Herbal supplements (e.g. Ginseng, Echinacea) – Not recommended. Evidence is inconsistent but there is more evidence to suggest that it doesn’t work. Save your money!
Fish Oils and Omega-3 – Evidence is conflicting and some researchers don’t recommend it.
Beta-glucan – Not enough data in my opinion but based on what has been done, not recommended
Unless there is a deficiency present, then the above will not help protect your immune system.
Summary and a final word of caution
Hopefully after reading this post you will have a better understanding on how to protect your immune system. Although at first it sounds complex, immunity can be really straight forward by appropriately managing training loads, recovery strategies, good personal hygiene, good nutrition, and adequate sleep.
If you are an elite/professional athlete, then please seek advice from a qualified professional before buying any supplements.
If you are subject to drug testing then the issue of supplement contamination is serious, therefore, ensure the supplement brand screens their products for contamination.
A 2 year ban and lifetime ban from the Olympics (if you are a British athlete) is a severe consequence for not taking this issue seriously.
Any questions related to this article, please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about Mayur and Boxing Nutrition, see his recent interview here