March 27, 2020

Illness and infections happen to the best of us, but there are ways to help prevent them from occurring. 

Orreco are an Irish Data Science and Sports Science company, who work with a range of professional teams and athletes across the NBA, Formula 1, the PGA Tour and the NHL. As such, they have put together the below guides on nutrition for immune function and best practice for avoiding infection. 

These have been put together with the help of some of the leading practitioners in performance and professional sport, and are general guidelines to support your immune system to help reduce the risk of illness and infections.

 

Please note that this is just for your information, and is not a recommendation from Swim Ireland. All advice and guidance should be taken directly from a registered professional (i.e. doctor, nutritionist or dietitian). All athletes are subject to anti-doping guidelines and policies and should only ever use batch-tested products and supplements

 

It can not be stressed enough that the best way to avoid getting or spreading the virus is to follow the guidelines set out by the HSE and the NHS

IMMUNONUTRITION

IMMUNONUTRITION

The first section of Orecco's guidelines is about nutrition. Here they have provided information to keep in mind when trying to protect yourself from illness and infections, and assist your immune system.

1. Fruit & Vegetable Intake

1. Fruit & Vegetable Intake

Increase consumption of fruit and vegetables to 7-8 servings per day to enhance immune function and decrease the risk of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI). Specifically, fruits and vegetables rich in polyphenols and carotenoids should be consumed to reduce risk of illness and infections due to their ability to enhance immune function.

2. Vitamin D

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important in maintenance of the immune system and if athletes are deficient there will be an increased risk of illness and infection. Vitamin D is mainly obtained through sunlight and so it is suggested that athletes increase their exposure to sunlight* to increase Vitamin D levels. 

If this is not possible (winter season) or has already been attempted and the athlete is still deficient, supplementation is suggested at 1000 IU/day.  


*Be sure to consult physician about recommended sunlight exposure times

3. Probiotics & Prebiotics

3. Probiotics & Prebiotics

Probiotics and prebiotics may play a prominent role in reducing illness and infection risk through the interaction between the gut and immune system. Many different strains of bacteria have been shown to enhance aspects of the immune system that protect against illness and infections. 

However, there are bacterial strains that cause harm to the immune system and affect men and women differently. It is suggested that probiotics are batch tested, however, probiotic yoghurts and drinks (i.e. functional foods bought in the supermarket) do not require batch testing. 

It is pertinent to check the strains listed on the product to ensure effectiveness of the supplement or food. Supplementation should consist of at least 10 live bacteria/day.

4. Carbohydrates

4. Carbohydrates

The most common time an illness and/or infection can occur is during the recovery phase after a long duration training session (>1.5 hours). Carbohydrate ingestion during a session can reduce the risk of illness and infection by enhancing immune function during the recovery phase. Remember, calorific restriction can compromise immune function.

AVOIDING INFECTION

AVOIDING INFECTION

The second section of Orecco's guidelines is about avoiding infection. Here they have provided practical information to keep in mind at all times when trying to stay healthy.

Much of their advice you will already be familiar with if you are up to date with the HSE's latest guidelines on social and physical distancing measures during the Covid-19 outbreak.


1. Reduce Risk of Contact with Infectious Microbes

1. Reduce Risk of Contact with Infectious Microbes

Avoid unnecessary travel, and avoid crowded places, since the most common cause of infection is contact with other people. 

Avoid touching surfaces, and be particularly mindful of door handles and the need to wash hands after contact.

Avoid self-inoculation – don’t touch your face, particularly your eyes.

Handwash regularly with soap for at least 20 seconds after interactions and before eating. 

Use hand sanitizer gel (this needs to be at least 60% alcohol to be effective) as a convenient alternative to handwashing with soap, but not as a replacement

Politely decline handshake greetings.

Wipe surfaces using a suitable anti-microbial product and dispose of the wipes.

Wipe devices regularly, particularly touchscreens and keyboards with multiple users.

2. Prepare Your Body to Deal with Infection

2. Prepare Your Body to Deal with Infection

REVIEW YOUR DIET


Ensure you are consuming adequate protein and carbohydrate to support recovery and adaptation.

Do not experiment with calorific restriction at this time, this puts your immune system at risk – instead periodise your energy intake according to your training volume.

Ensure you are consuming plenty of vegetables and fruit to maintain intake of vitamins and other micronutrients to support immune health. The polyphenols in fruits and vegetables have proven anti-viral properties and can reduce the risk of contracting upper respiratory tract infections. 

Stay well hydrated and put reusable water bottles through the dishwasher daily

REST & RECOVER

Sleep. As much as you need. For most people this is >7 hours. 

Rest and recover. Exercise stimulates your immune system, and helps protects you from infection, provided you are resting and recovering between sessions. Chronic overload without adequate rest compromises immunity. 

Manage stress. Excessive stress can compromise immunity

3. Protect Your Teammates

3. Protect Your Teammates

Catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue and immediately dispose of them.

If you are going to sneeze, use your arm to block/shield others from the sneeze.

Politely decline handshake greetings.

If you have symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection, e.g. sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, headache, self-isolate yourself and follow HSE guidelines. 

If you have come in to contact with someone who is infected, communicate this to your doctor and follow HSE guidelines.