Practical nutritional tips and strategies from Dr. Debbie Coughlin

COVID-19 is proving a devastating force around the world and a number of friends and I have been hugely disappointed by cancelled races, events and trips, notwithstanding the wider concerning economic, social and other impacts the virus has had on all of our day to day lives. I am grateful to be happy, healthy and strong. In the UK, the government has recognised the benefits of continuing to exercise in isolation and I have to admit I let out a small cheer when the Prime Minister said Cycling and running in isolation were still allowed, long may it continue…

Nutrition also plays a key part in staying healthy, strong and boosting immunity so I reached out to my sports nutritionist colleague and friend, Dr. Debbie Coughlin, for her top tips during this period. Debbie has helped shape my fuelling strategy for training and events and I saw huge performance improvements last year with her help… Here’s what she had to say:

“We’ve all read practical guidelines for limiting transmission of infections, so I thought I’d share some tips relating to nutritional and behavioural strategies to help maintain robust immunity:

Ensure adequate daily energy intake, including carbs, protein and micronutrients

Eat plenty of fruit and veggies (full of micronutrients)

If you are deficient in vitamin D, supplement during winter months when living in the UK where winter sunlight is not good enough to promote skin synthesis (UK RNI is 10mg/day)

Get sufficient sleep – may sound trivial but it’s important for immune function

Maintain good fluid intake to maintain good saliva secretion (saliva contains proteins with antimicrobial properties)

·There is some evidence to show ingestion of probiotics results in fewer days of respiratory illness and may lower severity of symptoms

Vitamin C and Zinc can’t prevent infection but have been shown to reduce duration of symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections

Whilst other supplements may claim to boost immune function, evidence is not compelling

Strenuous exercise has a negative effect on the immune system – so if you are exercising at moderate/high intensity for more than 90mins, ensure sufficient carb intake before and during exercise – and don’t forget appropriate recovery fuel

If you are not well, don’t exercise to allow the immune system to do its job!”

Debbie Coughlin, debbie@performancesportandnutrition.com

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