What to do when you feel a cold coming on
In the middle of a good training week, starting to feel ill can be an even bigger downer than normal. I feel like my body can't recover from a hard workout and fight off a cold at the same time, so here's some of the things I do to help stop a cold from starting:
1. Chicken Noodle Soup*
I know what you're thinking: DUH. It's a tale as old as time. I know! But...I've done some reading on just how important chicken soup can be when you're feeling under the weather. There's an actual science backing up chicken noodle (especially homemade!) and I think its really interesting to see just how much you can get out of it. Hot fluids help clear nasal passageways and ease congestion, and many studies have shown that the chicken broth in soup has a greater effect than hot water. There doesn't seem to be conclusive evidence as to actually what/why but I'd say this still supports the choice to have a bowl. Vegetables typically found in chicken noodle (carrots, celery, onions, etc) have Vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals that can help.
Something I found especially interesting: chicken soup is a great source of tryptophan, which helps the body produce serotonin, which enhances your mood. Not only does the soup help you physically, it also makes you FEEL happier, which is huge when you're dealing with annoying symptoms but still have to go about your day. The research is extensive, and definitely worth looking up when you plan out the ingredients for your personal masterpiece!
My reasons to make homemade chicken noodle soup:
If you're not convinced by all the real health benefits (which you should be),
here's some other reasons to make your own:
1) It is SO easy + you can make a lot.
When I start feeling sick, I immediately plan on making soup that night. While I might be among a minority when it comes to having chicken stock/broth on deck, if you already have this and other basic ingredients around the house, its SO easy to make a batch for several nights. It took maybe 20 minutes, and I have more than enough to use for lunch tomorrow and at least two other meals.
2) Make it how you want it!
This time around, I threw in baby carrots, canned chicken, canned white beans (huge for extra protein!!), and of course some kale. Salt, pepper + parsley to taste. My absolute favorite part is that I can make it how I want it each and every time, and use what I have available. Don't like onions? Don't add them. Feeling some potatoes this time? Shake it up.
2. Hydrating with Cherry + Beet Juice
The second I start feeling sick, I run to the store and grab a bottle of tart cherry juice. The last several times I started to feel a bit icky (like, at the very first sign) I added this to my diet and the sickness went no further. Cherry juice has vitamins and antioxidants to boost your immune system. It probably won't magically stop all colds, but I definitely feel like it has helped. I also keep beet powder at home, which I usually add to smoothies. However, when I'm getting sick I put this in my cherry juice, too! Beets help with blood circulation and getting rid of toxins. Cherry juice can mask its unique (read: weird) flavor.
One of the best things you can do when you're sick is hydrate, and I can't be the only one who finds the taste of water even more bland when I don't feel good. Simple hydration is where adding cherry juice and some OJ really helps me.
3. Extra Sleep
Another tip that's pretty obvious: we all know sleep is where the body recovers and heals. My tip as a busy and training athlete who already sleeps a lot? Go to your list of "important things to do" and rank them. The one (or two) on the bottom for that week are the first to go. I see what I can do to not do them (reschedule, find a shorter way to get it done, etc) and get some extra Zs. Also, if you're like me, you schedule breaks in your day for some mental relief- dog park, Netflix time, reading- and these can be used for quick naps on not so good days.
I also think its worth noting: Exercise helps when you're sick. Gets the blood flowing and helps you sweat it out a bit. However, skipping a workout is OK! If you really really don't feel good- or have a fever- skip the workout. Instead of skipping several, some easy biking can help get the blood flowing without the added stress of a rough workout that could make you even more sick.
4. Zinc- yes + no
In the past, I've added some zinc through supplements when I was feeling a bit under the weather or when I was at high risk of getting sick. Zinc is thought to help Vitamin C with boosting your immune system. Also, your body doesn't just make zinc, so it has to be added. Although studies have supported that it helps some, there is just as many conclusions saying that they wouldn't necessarily recommend it. I wasn't aware that the bad effects could outweigh the good effects of zinc, so I'm glad I did some research. Mayo Clinic has a good summary.
Its hard to get quality workouts in when you're sick. Finding ways to help your body heal is well worth your time. I'm starting to feel a cold coming on, if you have any other tips PLEASE share!
*Links to articles about chicken soup benefits: