Say Hello to the Immune-Boosting Diet

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Intense exercise can be suppress the immune system and leave athletes especially vulnerable to infection for a 3-12 hour window. Recent research suggests that diet can counteract some of those effects.

Inadequate macro-nutrient intake can be detrimental, but novel research published in Nutrients Journal from University of Applied Sciences FH JOANNEUM suggests that the inverse may be equally true.

Researchers detail:

 The results of 66 placebo-controlled and/or crossover trials were compared and analysed. Among macronutrients, the most effective approach to maintain immune function in athletes is to consume ≥6% carbohydrate during prolonged exercise.


These findings are inauspicious towards low-carb or Atkin’s dieters, who purposefully refrain from carbohydrates to induce ketogenic weight loss.

Evidence of beneficial effects from other macronutrients is scarce and results are often inconsistent. Using a single nutrient may not be as effective as a mixture of several nutritional supplements. Due to limited research evidence, with the exception of carbohydrate, no explicit recommendations to reduce post-exercise URTI symptoms with single macronutrients can be derived.

In all the macronutrients analyzed, only sufficient carbohydrate intake had an immune-protective effect.


Gunzer W, Konrad M, Pail E. Exercise-induced immunodepression in endurance athletes and nutritional intervention with carbohydrate, protein and fat-what is possible, what is not? Nutrients. 2012 Sep;4(9):1187-212. doi: 10.3390/nu4091187. Epub 2012 Sep 4.


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