Sportsmen and Athletes: How Can You Optimize Your Immune System?

3 January, 2018 , ,

Healthy Meal Plans from SOSCuisine

Vitamin D

Getting enough Vitamin D can optimise your sports performance thanks to its numerous benefits for bone health, muscle function, immune function and inflammation modulation. What that means is that optimal Vitamin D intake could reduce certain factors that harm performance, such as stress fractures, muscle aches, colds and flus. A Vitamin D supplement is therefore recommended.


An iron deficiency affects your immune system’s defence capacity. Therefore, if you feel more tired than usual, are not performing as well at training, or are often ill, ask your doctor to test your iron levels, as well as your iron stores (ferritin). Even if your serum iron level is normal, your ferritin level might be low. If your iron stores are diminished, it can contribute to weakening your immune system and negatively affect your performance. In this case, an iron supplement is recommended.


An imbalance in your intestinal microbiota can contribute to a weakened immune system. This can be caused by several factors including antibiotic use, elevated stress levels and more. Taking a probiotic supplement containing at least 1010 active bacteria for about a month will help you stock up on good bacteria to rebalance your intestinal flora. You can also add fermented foods like kefir, miso, tempeh and certain probiotic yogurts. You should know that bacteria feed on fiber, so make sure you eat enough dietary fiber from whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

Vitamin C

According to recent studies and meta-analysis, a vitamin C supplement (over 200mg a day) can help reduce the incidence of infection in athletes. However, this effect is modest, and it is possible that a mega-dose of vitamin C could diminish the body’s natural antioxidant defenses. Since there’s plenty of vitamin C in fruits and vegetables, the best advice is to ensure your diet is rich in fruits and vegetables. A vitamin C supplement is therefore not recommended.


Current studies suggest that zinc (such as the Cold-Fx supplement) can reduce the length and severity of cold symptoms, but doesn’t contribute to prevent colds occurring.

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Kathryn Adel

Kathryn Adel

Kathryn completed degrees in kinesiology and nutrition, as well as a Masters in Sports Nutrition. She is a member of OPDQ and of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She ran track and cross-country at a national level. Kathryn specializes in sports nutrition, weight loss, diabetes, as well as heart and gastrointestinal health. Kathryn is experienced with the low FODMAP diet and she completed the Monash University low FODMAP dietitian’s training.

Kathryn Adel

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