There isn’t much worse than working out for months, putting in the hard efforts, and hammering on race day only to wind up with a cold or the flu after your big weekend. Not only does it mess with your training plan, but it just sorta sucks. It might even make you think twice about racing and training hard. Below, I’ve listed a few ideas to help you find a solution to post-race illnesses, and to make sure you keep breaking those personal bests.
Supplements & Diet
- Glutamine Supplements: Glutamine is an amino acid that is generally abundant in the body to help build muscle and reduce stomach distress (among other scientific things). Since stress can deplete your glutamine stores–especially if you have low muscle mass–you may need to add a glutamine supplement to your diet. However, it would normally be readily available in your diet, and you probably shouldn’t just start taking an extra glutamine pill with dinner. Definitely talk to your doctor before adding it to your regimen to make sure it’s a good solution for you.
- Vitamin C: Stress can cause your body to throw away vitamin C like it’s a used up GU packet. In order to keep your immune system going, and keep you from getting a cold, you may want to add vitamin C supplements to your diet. If you do, make sure to get the chewable tablets, which stay in your system long enough to do some good. If you find you’re getting sick after hard efforts, make sure to take some after you’re done hammering. You might also find a recovery product that features Vitamin C. But make sure not to take too much, however, as high doses have actually been linked to doubling the risk of kidney stones (in men). Stay within the dosage parameters, and talk to your doctor to dial in just the right amount.
- Zinc: Zinc helps to boost your immune system, and will often stop an oncoming cold or flu from hitting you at full steam. I’ve taken it at the first sign of sickness, and it totally stops me from getting ill. Getting a Zinc supplement and taking it the day before a big race, or at the first twinge of illness will often keep you feeling healthy. Make sure to follow the directions and advice of your doctor, and never overdo it (I know, I’ve already said that a few times).
- Post-Effort Meals: If you’re like me, cheesy nachos and a Coke make for the perfect post-race meal (I deserve it, right?). But junk food after a hard day can bring on illness and make you wish you’d reached for a bunch of carrots instead. After a hard training ride, brick, or race, make sure to treat your body to a healthy meal packed with recovery proteins, carbs, fruits, and veggies. Steer clear of the junk food, and make sure your body has enough to work with to replenish its depleted stores of pretty much everything it needs. Check out a great chicken and rice post-race meal that’s a favorite of Pro Tour riders, which can offer some ideas for possibly quicker versions (this one takes forever to make).
Stress, improper rest and recovery, and overtraining can all lead you to get sick after a race. Make sure you’re tapering in the week or more before a big race, and don’t overtrain. Adding too much distance too soon can really wear your body down–if you’re sore the next day, you went way too hard–try to stick to that magic 10% more per week to increase volume.
Getting enough sleep every night will also keep you feeling good. Of course, those of us with kids and jobs will probably just have to deal–sheesh. But great quality sleep is vital to keeping our bodies healthy and letting them recover from tough effort. Avoid alcohol (which doesn’t allow for proper REM sleep), and try to get at least 7 hours (or if you’re like me, at least 10 ;)).
Wash your hands and try to reduce your stress levels as much as possible. Stress is awful. So, if your mom’s driving you nuts because you aren’t raising her grandkid right, or your family hates the name you gave your dog (lots of stressful things are pretty stupid, right?) maybe just stop answering the phone. OK, I’m kinda kidding about that one. But try to keep your mind positive and maybe do some breathing exercises or something to manage your stress levels properly.
Most importantly, if you keep getting sick, it’s important to get a complete physical with a full panel of bloodwork to make sure there’s nothing more serious going on. No matter what, your body is telling you that it’s just a bit off in some way. Listen to your body, and get it checked out!