No matter how healthy you are normally or how much of a stickler for hygiene you may be, getting sick at some point in your life is inevitable. What’s worse, illness tends to strike at the most inopportune of times, like the week before an athletic event, or in the middle of what promised to be a successful training cycle. Of course, it’s easy to resign yourself to your unfortunate circumstances and stuff yourself with comfort food, but making small changes to your diet while sick can help you make it out the other side relatively unscathed.
1. Don’t drastically reduce your calories
When you’re forced to stop training as a result of your illness, it may seem intuitive to cut your calorie intake to compensate. However, sticking to your rest-day calorie intake and macronutrient ratios makes for a wiser choice because it will help you to reduce or prevent loss of muscle mass. Recovering from illnesses also takes energy, so be sure that you don’t shoot yourself in the foot nutrition-wise.
2. Stick to low G.L. carbohydrates
Carbohydrates that are low in glycaemic load will have a minimal impact on blood glucose levels, maintaining insulin sensitivity so that you still remain fat-adapted. Certain low G.L. carbohydrate sources may be high where GI is concerned, but it’s a non-issue – the lighter the “load”, the smaller the spike in insulin.
3. Keep your protein intake high
Try to consume a minimum of 1.5g (2g is optimal) of protein per kilogram of bodyweight to avoid muscle-loss and remain in positive nitrogen balance. If you find that you don't have much of an appetite, try supplementing your intake with sources that are easier to stomach, like protein powders.
4. Keep your fat intake high
Fat is preferentially oxidised by the body, and is especially important for maintaining your overall energy levels at rest. To keep your fat intake optimal, don’t shy away from the fatty cuts of meat like striploin or ribeye. Cooking with butter or adding extra-virgin coconut oil to protein shakes can also be added for good effect. If getting salmon puts too much of a dent on your wallet, go for sardines instead or try supplements like fish oil capsules.
5. Drink a lot of water
Although this goes without saying, ensuring you’re hydrated is especially important because you lose an immense amount of fluids when sick. The scary thing is that depending on how sick you are, you might not even realise how dehydrated you actually are! By making sure that you don’t deprive your body of the resource that is essential to all forms of life, you’ll be able to get back on your feet even sooner.
Just as nutrition is essential to good health, so is it even more important when it comes to restoring it. Opting for whole foods allows the body access to nutrients in the form that they were designed for, making for better absorption. Don’t let poor dietary habits stop you from making a comeback!