Solving the health related mysteries within our bodies and discovering new ways to see these complications and intricacies can at times be a delight and at others, terrifying. With all of the moving parts and knowledge left to be discovered, finding new connections that yield positive impacts on the human body is always exciting.
I came across an interesting article recently from Nature.com within the Immunology & Cell Biology section that combined two of my life’s greatest passions, biking and preventive health. The research that this article brought forth was truly important, and in more ways than one. It is easy to attribute the epitome of health to an athlete, as they tend to look muscular, they exercise daily, compete in strenuous events that require intense concentration and stamina. Many might think that these athletes are on a higher level of health because of the amount of exercise they endure, however, the real strength lies within what these athletes are consuming. As this article shows, the strength of an athlete can be taken very quickly if the proper diet is not fueling their body’s foundation.
The author of the article, Michael Gleeson, explains that contrary to popular belief, prolonged bouts of exercise can actually lead to the depression of immune system functions, which can increase risks of acquiring immune system related illnesses such as the common cold or the flu. Not knowing of these risks can lead to athletes working too hard and further leaving their immune systems at risk. What’s worse, many athletes follow diets that are rich in carbohydrates. According to research, these high carb diets paired with supplements for antioxidant intake and weight loss, and protein rich meals post-workout may actually contribute in the depression of the immune system, as the diet is improper to what the body is craving.
Gleeson states that the best way to maintain a strong immunity is to consume a balanced diet that meets the natural needs of a body undergoing such rigorous exercise in order to supplement these actions rather than feed them. He goes on to instruct that athletes need certain vitamins and nutrients in order to stay in the best athletic health they can be in. These vitamins include A, D, E, B6 and B12 for immunity function, adding that Vitamin D is particularly important for athletes during winter months to protect against infections and illness.
While this is only a review of a small portion of the full article, I found this section in particular to be of interest. As an avid cyclist, I understand the needs of the body while pushing it to its limits. It is true that the body and mind need to be strong in order to succeed in your sport, however, it’s not as well known that athletes are at risk of endangering their own health by feeding their body’s cravings in such commonly practiced ways. As I continue to do my own research on the preventive properties of our diets, this article will stick out to me as one of importance when taking the time to exercise in my own personal life.