Most athletes know the importance of including carbohydrates or ‘carbs’s before training, or in their pre-event meal to fuel muscles. But did you know that carbs can also help keep your immune system in top shape?
In some sports such as Cross-Fit, there is a strong “paleo culture” or tendency to follow low carbohydrate, high protein diets. And while there is some evidence that ‘training low’ (little or no carbs are taken before a hard training session), may enhance the training response, it can also result in higher levels of stress hormones and can contribute to a depressed immune system, or what is called Exercise-induced immune depression.
Although Exercise-induced immune depression is usually mild and transient, it can make athletes more susceptible to infections, particularly upper respiratory tract infections (sore throats, coughs and colds), leading to missed training sessions and poor performance.
So, the best way for athletes to keep a robust immune system is include a meal or snack containing carbs before endurance events or high intensity training sessions. And as nutrition affects almost all aspects of the immune system, it is also important to have a well balanced, healthy training diet and adequate fluid for hydration.
Gunzer, Konrad, Pail 2012: Exercise-induced immunosuppression in endurance athletes and nutritional intervention with carbohydrate, protein and fat – what is possible, what is not?
This Coast Sport post has been prepared by Jo Allan, our Accredited Sports Dietitian with over 20 years’ experience helping Central Coast athletes with sports nutrition!
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