Research indicates that intense exercise can suppress the immune system and leave athletes especially vulnerable to infection during a 3-12 hour window. But recent research done by researchers at the FH Joanneum University in Austria hints on the benefits of diet to counteract some of those effects.
This recently published study Exercise-induced immunodepression in endurance athletes and nutritional intervention with carbohydrate, protein, and fat-what is possible, what is not? examines the impact of nutrition in relation to exercise and the effect on the immune system.
The researchers compared and analyzed 66 placebo-controlled and/or crossover trials. They conclude that carbohydrates in combination with training, or as post workout intake, does give strong positive effect immune system adaptation. According to the researchers, among the three macro-nutrients, the most effective approach to maintain immune function in athletes is to consume ≥6% carbohydrate in conjunction with prolonged exercise.
Heavily exercising endurance athletes experience extreme physiologic stress, which is associated with temporary immunodepression and a higher risk of infection, particularly upper respiratory tract infections (URTI). The aim of this review is to provide a critical up-to-date review of existing evidence on the immunomodulatory potential of selected macronutrients and to evaluate their efficacy. The results of 66 placebo-controlled and/or crossover trials were compared and analyzed. Among macronutrients, the most effective approach to maintain immune function in athletes is to consume ≥6% carbohydrate during prolonged exercise. Because inadequate nutrition affects almost all aspects of the immune system, a well-balanced diet is also important. Evidence of beneficial effects from other macronutrients is scarce and results are often inconsistent. Using a single nutrient may not be as effective as a mixture of several nutritional supplements. Due to limited research evidence, with the exception of carbohydrate, no explicit recommendations to reduce post-exercise URTI symptoms with single macronutrients can be derived.
Exercise-induced immunodepression in endurance athletes and nutritional intervention with carbohydrate, protein, and fat-what is possible, what is not?