I've been sick for this past week. I hate being sick. It always feels like my body is betraying me. Maybe I shouldn't take it so personally though.
Unfortunately being sick is something that happens to us all. It's just as important to nourish our bodies with good food before we're sick as it is when we're sick. Consistently maintaining a healthy diet makes sure we're providing our immune system with everything it needs to fight off infections when they happen. That means making sure you're taking in enough Vitamin C daily, not just going crazy with Vitamin C supplements when you start to get that tickle in the back of your throat. The only thing overloading yourself with Vitamin C when your sick does is make your pee a lot more expensive!
One of the things I struggle with when I'm sick is making sure I eat enough. Generally, being sick makes me lose my appetite. So if I don't monitor my intake carefully, I end up not eating as much as I normally do. I've worked with a number of patients who insist they don't need to eat as much when they're sick because they're not as active. You may think you're just lying in bed all day long, but your body is fighting a battle on the inside, and it's important you provide it with the energy it needs to do that. I've talked before about how many calories your body requires just to keep you alive. When you're sick there are additional calorie needs to keep your immune system strong, so it's important to try and eat about as much as you do when you're healthy.
For people who are training regularly, getting sick can feel like a huge setback. You've probably heard the general rule of thumb that if your symptoms are below the neck (chest congestion, body aches, nausea, vomiting, etc.) you need to stay home from the gym until you're better; but above the neck (runny nose, scratchy throat, headache, sinus congestion) you're good to go.
However, this doesn't mean you go all out. When you're sick is not the time to be setting PRs. If you're going to lift; lift lighter than you normally do. If you're going to run or swim; keep it at a moderate pace. It's so important to listen to your body. If you have above the neck symptoms but you're feeling really tired, then take that hour you were going to spend at the gym and take a nap. I promise, a week or two off for illness will not negate all the progress you've made. But training, or over training, when you shouldn't has the potential to cause long term damage.
Alright, I'm going to go have some tea with honey. The rest of you stay healthy! Wash your hands, eat your fruits and vegetables, and get enough sleep!
Taryn is a Los Angeles based Registered Dietitian who's passionate about helping you be your healthiest you.