Modifying training and recovery activities to maintain immune health in athletes
Manipulate training volume and/or intensity to manage training load; keep the size of increments in volume and intensity to 5–10% per week (particularly during winter); increase the frequency of shorter, so-called “spike” training sessions, rather than enduring fewer but longer sessions; implement recovery activities immediately after the most intensive training sessions; undertake easy-moderate training sessions after each high-intensity session; plan an easier recovery/adaptation week every second or third week of the training cycle; permit athletes at heightened risk of illness several weeks of active recovery after the completion of a season or major competition.
Optimise psychological well-being and maintain immune health in athletes
Keep unnecessary life stress to a minimum; monitor and manage all forms of stress (psychosocial and physical); monitor life demands (e.g. using the DALDA questionnaire); monitor mood, stress, and anxiety; implement stress management interventions where necessary.
Sleep recommendations to maintain immune health in athletes
Aim for 7+ hours of sleep each night; avoid restricting sleep over many days and “catching-up”; monitor morning freshness and vigour; consider monitoring sleep duration and efficiency using a wearable device; daytime naps may be beneficial; optimise sleep hygiene routine in the hour before bedtime (e.g. reduce psychological strain, go “screen-free”, and ensure darkness at bedtime: see attached infographic).
Maintain immune health in athletes encountering extreme environments
Carefully manage training load and recovery when training with additional heat and/ or hypoxia; acclimation to heat and/or hypoxia may limit the influence of environmental extremes on immune health; take extra precautions to avoid prolonged periods of breathing large volumes of cold, dry air (e.g. when training and competing in the winter); personal hygiene, sleep hygiene, proper nutrition, and reducing unnecessary stress become increasingly important during long-haul travel to training camps and competition; short-lasting exposure to environmental extremes may enhance immunity and reduce sickness (e.g. 30-secs hot-to-cold showers).
Nutritional recommendations to maintain immune health in athletes
Match energy intake to expenditure; avoid crash dieting; eat a well-balanced diet; consume >50% daily energy intake as carbohydrate; ensure adequate protein intake (1.2−1.6 g/kg body mass/day); consider 1000 IU/day vitamin D3 from autumn to spring to maintain sufficiency; at the onset of a cold, take zinc acetate lozenges (75 mg/day); consider probiotics (≥1010 live bacteria/day) for illness prone/travelling athlete.