Food can help your immune system as well as undermine it depending on your choices. We will cover four food groups that you should try to avoid in times of increased risk of infection. Can you guess which they are?
Yes, sugar is at the top of the list as usual. We all know eating too much sugar can have negative consequences, but let’s go over how it relates to immune health. Research suggests that added sugar and refined carbs in general may significantly contribute to overweight and obesity. That’s a problem because as other research has shown obese people who get a flu vaccine are 2x more likely to get the flu than people without obesity. Diseases like obesity, diabetes 2 and heart disease, which are connected to sugar intake, all weaken your immune system.
Sugar in your diet probably won’t destroy your immunity right away, though it can ruin your teeth pretty quickly. But in the long run, it can be a big risk factor. Try to limit your sugar intake to less than 5% of your daily calories on days when you don’t have any significant physical activity. For the average person this means less than about 2 tablespoons or 25 grams of sugar.
Fast, fried, and highly processed food
Sugar is just one offender of many on the obesity front. You can very easily make a similar case for fried food, fast food, and highly processed food in general. It’s very low in essential nutrients and fibre and really rich in calories. It makes overeating easy, which increases the risk of the very same diseases that we mentioned above with sugar.
It’s not always easy to completely cut these foods out of your diet. They are very convenient and really attractive and tasty. Try cooking in big batches on the weekend, so you always have some leftovers in the fridge during the week. That will help you avoid needing fast food as a solution when things get busy. As for potato chips, corn chips, chocolate bars, and other snacks, save them only for special occasions. Don’t have them at home to avoid temptation.
This is a hard one. For many, alcohol is part of an unwinding ritual every evening, it’s a way to socialize, or it’s self-medication. Unfortunately, it’s also something that has a significantly negative impact on sleep quality, your overall health, and even directly on your immune system. Check out our previous article on alternative ways that can help you manage stress without alcohol. That way you can keep your favourite beer only for celebrations and special bike rides with friends.
Soda and energy drinks
The last food group, or rather drink group, to avoid combines all of the previously mentioned risks. Soda and energy drinks are highly sugary, they allow you to ingest too many calories really easily, and they can reduce sleep quality. So, be sure to have your liquid calories only when you’re cycling. They can help you maintain a hard pace during training sessions and races. But they bring you no benefit, only problems when you get in the habit of drinking them regularly outside of exercise.