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Does Exercise Drop Your Immunity?

Regular physical activity or a well-structured consistent exercise certainly reduces the incidences of many chronic conditions when compared to someone who has adopted a sedentary lifestyle. The practice of physical activities can influence healthiness by altering the metabolic state and the immune system. Despite the apparent health benefits achieved by regular training, a bout of exercise, especially intense training can temporarily supress the immune function.

The immune system is responsible for keeping the body healthy and protecting against sickness and infections. Some people naturally have weaker immune systems, while others have a stronger infection fighting ability.

Bodily Changes After An Intense Workout That Leads To Drop In Immunity -

  • Change in mucosal immunity
  • Drop in number and function of white blood cells (Lymphocytes)
  • Increase in stress hormones – Adrenalin and Cortisol

This when coupled with poor nutrition, improper rest, addictions, overtraining syndrome etc increases susceptibility to certain infections.


Other factors that support Post-workout immune deficiency

  • Decrease in levels of glutamine
  • Deficiency of proteins which causes gradual loss of muscles.
  • Not replenishing with vitamins and minerals that are required to combat free radical damage.
  • High intake of Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (Sunflower oil, soyabean oil, grains etc) which have higher chances of oxidative damage.
  • Consumption of tobacco/cigarette smoking
  • Stress
  • Inadequate sleep
  • Over training, especially with high intensity workout and when not fuelled properly.

Strategies To Improve The Immunity

1. Nutrition

Proper nutrition post exercise leads to -

  • Reduced exercise-induced inflammation
  • Improved immune function
  • Reduced symptoms of infections
Whey Upon wake up and post workout 1 scoop in water
Glutamine one serving in morning and one post workout 15 to 20 gm/day
Cysteine with meals 500 mg/day
Beta-alanine Pre-workout/pre-meal 3 to 6 gm (in divided dosage)
Zinc with meals 15-30mg/day (Avoid taking with calcium)
Vitamin C post workout and bedtime 1-5 gm/day depending on workout intensity
Vitamin E post workout and bedtime 400mg-800 mg/day
Water pre/post/during workout and throughout the day 3-7 litres/day
Electrolytes During and post aerobic workout  
Multi vitamin Multi mineral post workout and /or bedtime (Care should be taken of the timings of other supplements like calcium for superior absorption of multivitamins) As per the intensity of workout
Coenzyme Q10 Post training and Bedtime 60-300 mg/day
Alpha Lipoic Acid Post training and Bedtime 300 to 600 mg/ day
Omega 3 Fatty acids Any time of the day (1 to 6 grams/ day) Depends on intensity

2.Rest and Recovery

Sleep is an important part of daily function that helps the brain and other parts of the body to rest and regenerate. Without adequate rest, body and brain cannot perform optimally.

Little or no rest impairs body's ability to produce immune response. Exercise causes changes in the body such as muscle tissue breakdown and the depletion of energy stores (muscle glycogen) as well as fluid loss. Recovery time allows these stores to be replenished and allows tissue repair to occur. Without sufficient time to repair and replenish, the body will continue to breakdown from intensive exercise. Thus, building recovery time into any training program is important because this is the time that the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place.


We say

On a properly constructed programme of training, nutrition and rest, transient drop in immunity that is seen post exercise can be avoided as it will take care of the “open window”. Training, in right dose acts as a medicine and has wonderful effect on the Immune system.

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