You know with the weather changes by the hour, it’s wreaking havoc on my golf game and it seems like more and more people are getting sick from colds and flu viruses.
Tracy even started feeling crappy this week, so I figured I’d share a few strategies of some little known strategies that I use to NOT get sick when everyone around me is. Whenever I start to feel like I’m coming down with anything, I immediately reach for my trusted Cold-Eeze lozenges…1-2 of them seem to always do the trick for me. And if you’re wondering, no it’s not Paleo, but it certainly does the trick for me.
If you are one of those people who sprint to get a Z-pak or antibiotics for everything, then your immune system may be compromised. I’m going to share how you can build an “Immune System of Steel” that will keep you moving along like the Energizer Bunny while others are dragging or having to stay home in bed.
8 Steps to Building an Immune System of Steel
1. Consume plenty of anti-oxidants and phytonutrients.
Your health status depends on whether or not you’re winning the thousands and millions of battles occurring right NOW at a cellular level. Free radicals (bad guys like viruses, bacteria, any foreign invaders) attack the cell walls and attempt to break through anti-oxidants work to reduce the formation of free radicals and provide a defense barrier. So where do you get the anti-oxidants you need as your line of defense? Vitamins? Nope! They come from fruits and vegetables. Shocker huh?
If you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables then you need to start, but don’t just jump of the fruit wagon because there’s other things you need to consider. My recommendation is to consume veggies and fruits in a ratio of 4:1 – yes, that’s four serving s of veggies per serving of fruit.
2. Take a high quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement.
When it comes to vitamins too much can be just as bad as not enough. The majority of synthetic vitamins have some degree of assimilation problems (and yes, all vitamins are synthetic or man-made unless it comes from God given food). This means you won’t be able to absorb all the vitamins and minerals listed on the label.
Unless you’re eating a wide variety of foods, I believe taking a multi-vitamin can be helpful just because it’s difficult to get enough of what we need from foods alone due to nutrient depletion problems with the soil.
I always say use the good, better best principle here. Decent would be a Walmart (Men’s, or Women’s) vitamin, but just know that you won’t really be getting much from this. Better would be Vitacell from Max Muscle near Firewheel Mall (Tell Sammy you know us and he’ll give you a 10% discount). The absolute best would be Vitalizer from Shaklee. I haven’t found anything better, and I’ve tried quite a few products in my day.
3. Consume plenty of high quality protein.
Regardless of where you stand on your philosophy of eating animals, the fact is you need sufficient protein in your diet, someway, somehow, to help support a strong immune system. Protein acts as an anti-oxidant and is an essential component in the formation of white blood cells. Try to consume at least approximately 1 gram per pound of lean body mass on a daily basis, someway, somehow, for optimal health.
4. Give your central nervous system a good kick.
This is one of the biggest secrets nobody really talks about. I believe it’s why many runners (e.g. cardio kings and queens) seem to get sick more frequently than people who spend half the time exercising.
Aerobic exercise, while beneficial does very little to stimulate the central nervous system. Your central nervous system is where hormonal responses are triggered which boost the immune system.
While walking is great for aerobic exercise, frequent bouts of long distance running or high intensity training will break the body down and put you in a “catabolic state.” The body just sees the exercise as physiological stress, which compromises your immune system.
Is stress good or bad? It depends…
Stress alone is NOT a problem…its chronic stress (repeated stress) that’s the real problem. A short encounter with something that stresses the body can be very beneficial. Doing a sprint, lifting something heavy, running up a flight of stairs…these are all examples of “anaerobic” activities that help stimulate the central nervous system.
I believe in a well-rounded and balanced physical fitness program that includes “getting out of breath” and “lifting something heavy” every now and then to accompany walking, stretching, and functional exercise. The people I encounter who are stronger, healthier, and more resilient do a little bit of everything. This includes doing short bouts of strenuous physical activity that puts them out of their comfort zone.
5. Get lots of quality sleep.
Just closing your eyes at night doesn’t count. You have to get enough quality sleep because that is the time your body uses to regenerate, repair, rebuild, and recover from the stress it incurred during the day. Not getting enough sleep actually triggers imbalances in your hormonal state that adds more stress to your body. So not only is your immune system compromised, but your ability to lose fat also suffers because your body no longer manages coritsol production and insulin as optimal as it should.
Bottom line…good quality sleep results in stronger immune system and better fat loss; consistent low quality or lack of sleep results in compromised immune function and increased fat storage.
6. Follow the 80/20 rule with the Paleo Nutrition Strategy.
People ask me all the time if I follow Paleo 100% of the time. I’d be lying if I said I did. I L-O-V-E Bluebell Ice Cream and chocolate chip cookies, my wife’s corned beef hash and grits with butter and sugar, my mom’s red beans and rice with fried “trip” chicken (okay, so I’m a little country); and I will eat them on occasion. So I’m probably following Paleo about 90% of the time.
Now I will say, there are periods of time where I do follow the Paleo nutrition strategy 100%, but that’s usually when I’m preparing for a competition or have a specific goal where I need to dial in everything to achieve the result I want in the time I’ve got. And if you’re looking to drop fat quickly or have a goal you want to achieve, following the Paleo strategy 100% for several months will certainly do the trick.
So what’s the deal with 80/20 rule and Paleo? I’m glad you asked. If you’re following the 80/20 rule as it relates to 80% of your nutritional consumption coming from natural, whole foods, then you’re helping your immune system quite a bit. Also, the remaining 20% should not consist of a ton of processed or refined foods all the time. There’s really no need for them as staples in your house, because if it’s in your house, you will eat it. Sodas (regular or diet), candy, chips, cookies, peanut butter crackers, etc. are all quick highly processed foods that will wreak havoc on your fat loss efforts as well as your immune system.
7. Do mobility work to promote recovery and maintain good posture.
Good posture is not just for fashion models and debutants. We should all work to maintain good structural alignment and joint mobility. Making time to do regular mobility work (e.g. foam roller, MWODs, etc.) will promote faster recovery from your workouts and allow you to relax more completely. Also maintaining a healthy spine (i.e. seeing a good Chiropractor) does wonders for your health and immune system. And no, you don’t have to be in pain to see a Chiropractor once a month or so for a tune-up.
When your tissue quality is optimal and your spine is healthy, your central nervous system works effortlessly and signals from your brain get to where they need to in the quickest manner possible. When you have poor tissue quality and you’re misaligned, that signal flow is restricted and the communication between your brain and where it’s sending the signals is negatively impacted. Not good. Take the time. Get the mobility work in and maintain good posture.
8. Drink plenty of water.
Water is probably one of the most important things we consume as human beings. The body cannot really function without it, just as a car cannot run without gas and oil. In fact, all the cell and organ functions that make up our entire anatomy and physiology depend on water for their functioning.
Waiting until you are actually thirsty means you’re probably already dehydrated. If you’re dehydrated, then you’re a prime candidate for flu bugs, colds, and a whole host of nasty stuff that can keep you coughing, sneezing, congested, and miserably sick. Drinking water regularly throughout the day will ensure you have a steady flow of fluids in your system. How much water? Ideally, you should consume half your bodyweight in ounces on a daily basis. This will help promote better tissue quality and keep your body and immune system functioning as it was designed to function.
There you have it. Those are my best tips for how I keep from getting sick and how I work to beat a cold or flu fast once I feel any of the symptoms coming on. But of course I’m no doctor so make sure to go see your physician if your symptoms persist or extend beyond normal cold or flu symptoms.
Robert Selders, Jr. is a certified personal trainer, author, speaker, and the owner of CrossFit Garland, Powered By 3Q Fitness, located in the historic downtown square of Garland, TX. Learn more about how you can receive a free comprehensive consultation and no obligations CrossFit training trial; and get guaranteed results with his exercise and nutrition programs at CrossFit Garland.