Sport nutrition – special edition

A Healthy Immune System – doing sport during Winter

A number of big endurance events are approaching, of which the Comrades Marathon is best known. To prepare for such an event, training starts months in advance and builds-up in intensity. As training intensifies and winter approaches the athlete often gets sick. Research shows Upper Respiratory Tract Infections most often occur. Here are some strategies that may help to promote a healthy immune system while training hard.

Nutritional strategies


  • As a foundation, a well balanced diet providing sufficient energy, macronutrients and micronutrients (including antioxidants) should be consumed
  • A large variety of foods should be consumed
  • A multivitamin-mineral supplement may be a consideration (i.e. PeptoSport®Multivitamin)
  • Alcohol should be avoided during periods of hard training as it may aggravate dehydration


  • Attention should be focused on providing sufficient carbohydrates daily as well as during recovery
  • The carbohydrate choices should be appealing to encourage sufficient intake
  • During training sessions, appropriate carbohydrate sources should be available eg.
    • Sports drinks (i.e. PeptoSport®)
    • Sports gels
    • Sweets
    • Dried fruit
    • Low fat bars
  • Athletes should consume 30-60g carbohydrate per hour of prolonged (>90 min) training to reduce stress hormones and prevent fatigue


  • Athletes must begin recovery strategies immediately after the exercise has ended
  • Ensure rehydration and delivery of carbohydrates using
    • Sports drinks (i.e.PeptoSport®)
    • Soft chewable sweets
    • Fruit
    • Meal replacement drinks (if food cannot be tolerated)
    • Sandwiches / Rolls
    • Smoothies
    • Low fat drinking yoghurt
  • Co-ingestion of carbohydrate and protein after exercise during the recovery period may be useful in altering the immunosuppression associated with heavy training (i.e. PeptoSport®)
  • Recovery strategies are very important where exercise bouts happen on the same day and recovery time is limited
  • Recovery is essential after each training session and not just after a competition event
  • If recovery is done correctly it may enhance performance


  • As rehydration should aim to replace sweat losses, the use of sports drinks and salty snacks are useful
  • Aim to reduce the extent of possible dehydration when exercising in the heat
  • Be aware of signs of dehydration
    • Headaches
    • Nausea
    • Dark urine / Strong smelling urine
    • Dry mouth
    • Thirst
  • Pre-workout and post-workout weight monitoring may be useful to identify weight loss that may either be caused by dehydration or restricted fluid intake

Training strategies

  • Performance testing should identify any decrease in performance, whether due to fatigue or illness or infection
  • Training programmes should be varied and efforts made to reduce injury eg. training surface
  • Training should include recovery days
  • Avoid stressing of injuries
  • Be aware when you are most vulnerable to infection (directly after training)
  • Be careful of training in public and then socialising afterwards during periods of heavy training
  • It is during the post exercise “window” where athletes are most vulnerable to infection
  • Don’t train if suffering from:
    • Fever
    • Swollen glands
    • Coughs
    • Joint aches
  • Once resolved, don’t resume the same intensity of training, start slowly

General Hygiene & Wellbeing

  • Avoid a dry mouth and don’t share bottles with anybody else
  • When sports drinks are made from powder, ensure high quality potable water are used
  • Ensure drinks containers are clean and free of mildew, don’t put washed drinks containers into cupboards unless completely dry
  • Always wash hands before preparing food
  • Rinse vegetables and fruit before eating
  • Food preparation should be done under hygienic conditions by persons who are free from illness / infection
  • Leftovers should not be older than 48 hours and should be stored correctly and cooled promptly after cooking
  • Limit exposure to crowds, sick or other young people (unless your direct family) during intense training
  • Always practise good personal hygiene with regular hand washing
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth and face
  • Get sufficient and regular good quality sleep