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.
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.