23 April 2019

You’re in the best shape of your life, so why do you keep getting ill?

October 13, 2015

You’re in the best shape of your life, so why do you keep getting ill? You may be suffering from PEIS – Post Exercise Immunosuppression. The good news is, you can beat it with your diet:


The harder you train, the fitter you become. Sleep patterns improve, stress levels drop and you go about your daily life with a spring in your step. Better still, you see your race times dropping, which reinforces your motivation to set new goals and push on. In short, life is peachy.

But it isn’t always like this. Because despite being fitter than much of the population, many athletes still catch more colds than the average sofa surfing, takeaway snaffling regular Joe. What gives?

The problem is Post Exercise Immunosuppression, or PEIS, which is where exercise increases levels of the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol in the body. This is a basic stress reaction and exactly the same as we experience under more traditional forms of stress like overwork, difficult emotional situations, or plain old lack of sleep. This reaction knocks out your immune system temporarily, leaving you as weak as a kitten with a particularly heavy ball of wool should any colds or viruses come your way.

The level of exercise involved has to be high though for this to happen. Moderate training won’t cause a problem and if anything will boost immunity, but when sessions go over two hours or intensity regularly steps above 85 per cent PEIS problems can occur. Endurance specialists like Ironman competitors, marathon and ultramarathon runners are especially at risk.

PEIS is a genuine problem,” says Gareth Evans, sports scientist at the Porsche Human Performance Centre who deals with a number of elite endurance athletes. “It is linked to overtraining, and is made worse by people training through it”.

So PEIS is a real concern for anyone training hard, although there’s no need to suddenly wrap yourself in cotton wool to avoid it either – too far that way and you’ll only create a new set of problems.

“Stop training at the first hint of a sniffle and you’ll never reach your potential,” says triathlon coach Joe Beer. “You’re not doing triathlon if you don’t like a bit of discomfort – it’s about pushing yourself and seeing what you’re made of.”

So how do you tread the line between training well and avoiding illness?

The first step is to realise not all illness is caused by PEIS. Three colds a year is normal, and this can go up or down slightly for all of us in any given year regardless of what we do.

But if a pattern is developing where you’re consistently more ill than people around you or colds and bugs take forever to shake off, PEIS could be at work.

Don’t think it can’t affect you because you’re not an elite athlete either. Age groupers and amateurs are often at more risk than pros.

While some experts sniff at the idea of anyone around the seven-hours-per-week training mark being able to overdo it, that’s because they’re looking at it from a pro perspective. After all, seven hours training in a week is nothing to a top athlete. But the difference is amateurs fit training and racing around lives often already packed – full time job, kids to look after, and no coach to monitor it all for them.

“Elites have it easier,” says Beer. “They can overdo it and then take a couple of rest days. But the age groupers can’t. Many think a rest day means simply not training. It’s not. A recovery day at pro level is doing absolutely nothing. Lying on the sofa all day, maybe having a massage. That’s a real rest day and they’re hard to come by when you have a job and a family”.

But although amateurs may well be at more risk of PEIS than pros, the biggest solution to the problem is the simplest and it’s all about nutrition.

First up you need a decent, clean and natural diet, getting your nutrition and supplements for endurance right.

“With the immune system it’s all about getting a varied diet,” says Evans. “We ask our athletes to self-monitor – everyone says they eat healthily, but when they keep a record of everything they eat we often find their diets aren’t as good as they think. A balanced wholefood diet is what’s needed”.

Next up you need plenty of antioxidants to help fight off those bugs kind colleagues bring into work or fellow commuters sneeze around the tube on a Monday morning just when you’ve whacked yourself out training or racing flat stick all weekend.

Then you’ll want to alkalise your diet as much as possible. Fast foods, processed foods, baked goods, caffeine and high-sugar foods – the nutritional cornerstones of our time-poor lives are all acid-forming and doing their very worst to make our bodies more acid than they should naturally be. And increased acidity utterly knackers your immune system.

For us this is where 33Shake stands head and shoulders above anything on the market. ANY processed sports nutrition or endurance supplement out there is going to actively increase your acidity thanks to its processed and high-sugar nature, but with 33Shake not only is everything natural and unprocessed it’s also packed with ingredients that are actively bursting with every antioxidant your body could need as well as a host of all-natural alkalisers.

So with nothing more than some well-balanced eating and a shake for breakfast you can take your immune system to a new level – with no need for any other sports nutrition supplements or vitamins at all – which leaves you free to concentrate on your next goal and your next PB.

The final nutritional tip is also super-simple, and it’s all about water. You need to stay hydrated. Mucus and saliva are two of the body’s very best natural barriers against infection but both perform badly when you’re dehydrated, so plenty of water during heavy exercise is key, even more so afterwards when your immune system could be at its lowest.

Keep these core nutritional principles in place and you’ll be in the strongest possible position to kick PEIS into touch. Rock on.

This article was first published on 33shake – for more great nutrition and training advice go to blog.33shake

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