With winter closing in and the holiday hustle ramping up, this time of year can make staying healthy a trick. However, there are some key things you can implement to support your immune system and mitigate sickness to stay on top of the ball! Here are my top 5 tips for some healthy holidays.
1. Activity & Exercise
If you are here, then I’m sure you’re an active individual. To reinforce our appreciation of movement, staying on top of a consistent workout/exercise routine has been shown to be fundamental in sustaining a healthy body.
Regular physical activity can result in: better sleep, improved moods, lower stress levels, and increased circulation of immune cells in your body — all factors that contribute to a healthy immune system.
In contrast, excessive exercise/training can decrease general immunity and increase inflammation, oxidative stress, muscle damage, and illness risk. Therefore, there’s a bit of a balance to strike during times of higher risk and stress.
Depending on you goals for this time of year, this can be a great time to step into a more balanced and functional training routine that supports overall health. Here are two ways for finding that balance:
Incorporate Strength Training
Strength training is undoubtedly a benefit to our health and longevity…in addition to performance. It aids in things like bone density, muscle maintenance and function, and can elevate immune cells.
This is a great time of year to get back to basics and develop a strength routine to develop a well-rounded body…both for performance and health!
Limiters: time or energy?
There are two main limiters to consider when things get busy: time or energy. If you are limited by time, then that is how you have to maneuver training plans. It may be best to condense workouts to be more specific, swap with a strength training or cross-training day, or get into a ride routine that is sustainable and efficient.
If you are limited by energy, then you have to consider the fact that things may arise throughout your day that drain your energy and make consistency in your training harder. Family meals, travel time, and weather may be your “uncontrollable” items that are going to happen regardless; plan your training around that. This can mean prioritizing the workouts first… or being more flexible. Go for a time-crunched indoor ride, a strength session, or get out for some light exercise around the neighborhood.
Sleep is an important period of rest, recovery, and adaptation for health. Studies indicate that sleep plays a crucial role in the “robustness” of our immune system. Sleep contributes to both innate and adaptive immunity. Here are my top tips for improving your sleep this winter:
Get some light early after waking
Getting natural light early in the morning reinforces our circadian clock as a whole, encouraging the proper flow of hormones and setting the tone for the day.
Limit late-night screen time
We are all guilty of getting on the phone or Netflix late into the evening. This artificial light is proven to affect our circadian rhythm and impact our readiness for sleep. If you want this time to check the phone or a show, then I suggest looking into a pair of blue light blocking glasses!
Avoid large late-night meals
While this is not always possible, limiting large meals to 2-3hr prior to bedtime can improve sleep as our body isn’t distracted by dealing with processing and digesting food.
Workout early (if possible)
Getting in morning movement can help kickstart a cascade of positive reactions for the body. Not only that, it just provides a mental boost for the rest of your day to follow. If that’s not possible, don’t stress it – even 5-10 minutes of walking can be helpful!
You can’t out train or outwork a bad diet. Taking care of your nutrition is key to maintaining health and immune function, especially when you add a high training volume to that! Regarding nutrition, here are some easy ways to stay in top-notch shape:
Hydrate through the cold
As things chill off and we head outside for workouts, it can be easy to underestimate the hydration needed to stay healthy. We may not want to drink (or think we need to) but the body is still using a lot of fluid to keep you warm and driving forward.
LMNT is one of the most high-profile and balanced elextrolyte mixes for optimal hydration.
Don’t forget the protein. We are entering a time of soups, snacks, and sweets and can often forget to get adequate amino acid profiles through quality protein.
The SwissRX Total Recovery is a perfect complete protocol.
Eat more “seasonally
This means tailoring your diet a bit more to what naturally grows/occurs during this time of year. This is more of a general theme of eating according to what should be in season and ready for you (ie. squashes, apples, cabbage...)
Gut health is critical to the maintenance of your immune system and the function of how your body utilizes nutrients. Check out SwissRX Gut Defense for more insight.
Supplements are no replacement for proper nutrition, but they can definitely support your goals, health, and immunity – especially in times of high training stress. Fortunately, The Feed | Formulas is an amazing way to take the guesswork out of finding the right products and supplement quality that you need. Especially the NEW On Demand pack.
Here are some general vitamins + minerals to consider this winter:
- Vitamin D3 + K2 (especially as our exposure to light shrinks)
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
Oh, guess what? The new Quicksilver Immune Charge has all of these nutrients, delivered more effectively with their liposomal technology. These properties will help strengthen and fortify your body – working to bring balance to the inflammatory and immune responses. Additionally, using a simple shake like Kyoku or Gnarly Greens or multi like SwissRX Multi can be a great way to up your nutrient intake through the day with minimal planning.
Minerals & More
- Essential fatty acids (ie. omega-3 and omega-6 oils)
The sauna is a great way to assist your immune system, among a long list of other benefits. Especially during the winter months, utilizing the sauna can improve cardiovascular function and boost immune-supporting properties in the body through something called “heat shock proteins”.
I add in 2-3 sessions of 15-20min a week when winter comes, especially on easy days or when the weather takes a turn for the worse. This is great opportunity to get some passive cardiovascular “therapy” in. Exercise caution when easing into sauna therapy and go off of feel. Research recommends aiming for 180-210ºf (for however long is comfortable) for a weekly total of >50min.
The holidays are an amazing time, but can lead many into sickness. The combination of increased alcohol intake (a known immune depressant), less than healthy ‘seasonal fare’, and stress and fatigue that accompany the season can deplete immunity.
The holidays can be a perfect storm of immune-suppressing activities. We eat a lot of goodies, drink often, and don’t usually get our normal workout routine in. We can take care of ourselves by adding these four practices:
- don’t go overboard on sweets
- move after big meals (bonus if you take the family!)
- pair alcohol = with water
- drink earlier in the evening
These tips aim to assist you in a healthy immune system, but not shield you from all sickness. Be mindful when pushing big training volume, the weather is rough, or you are blanketed by external stressors. Here’s to healthy holidays!