• All Systems Staff

Bulletproof Immune System

Updated: Dec 13, 2019

Bulletproof immune system! What we can learn from elite athletes to stay healthy in times of stress

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As we reach the coldest time of the year many people, especially athletes may suffer from acute illnesses. Not to mention many people kicking their fitness into overdrive this time of year can make an individual susceptible to injury and illness


As training volume incrases so does a recreational athletes risk of illness

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The International Olympic Committee came out with two great papers on preventing sickness and overtraining in elite athletes

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The organ systems affected by acute illnesses in athletes show a very consistent pattern. Most studies indicate that about 50% of all acute illness in athletes during competitions and tournaments affect the respiratory tract

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Even without all the expensive devices and monitoring systems elite athletes and trainers use, there are simple things everyone can do to keep their immune systems healthy and functioning optimally to prevent sickness

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Here are a few things you can do from the nutrition side of things to put yourself in the best position possible and avoid illness. This is not an exhaustive list of the IOC’s recommendations. Check out the paper for a detailed list and description of the techniques used!

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Consider zinc lozenges (>75 mg zinc/day; high ionic zinc content) at the onset of upper respiratory symptoms, as there is some evidence that the number of days with illness symptoms can be reduced

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Introduce personalised nutrition programmes to avoid deficiencies of essential micronutrients;

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Encourage athletes to ingest carbohydrate during and after exercise and to ingest both carbohydrate and protein after exercise;

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Measure and monitor the vitamin D status of athletes and supplement if required;

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Consider advising athletes to ingest probiotic such as Lactobacillus probiotics on a daily basis;

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Consider advising athletes on the regular consumption of fruits and plants, polyphenol supplements (eg, quercetin), or foodstuffs (eg, non-alcoholic beer and green tea) that may reduce the risk of illness


Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and veggies to make sure you are getting plenty of vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants

Schwellnus M, Soligard T, Alonso J-M, Bahr R, Clarsen B, Dijkstra HP, et al. How much is too much? (Part 2) International Olympic Committee consensus statement on load in sport and risk of illness. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2016 Sep;50(17):1043–52.

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