The average adult will pick up a cold or flu bug a couple times a year.
If you’re a lifter who eats enough protein, it’s probably less than that.
But we know it’s inevitable, so it’s important to have a plan on how to adjust your program so you can ride it out and not get derailed.
If you’re feeling it coming on, should you still workout?
What changes should you make with food to get over it faster?
HOW TO CHANGE WORKOUTS
If you have a fever, if the cold is in your chest, feeling achy all over – don’t go. Rest.
If your symptoms are all above the neck, your body will be able to handle a workout.
Dial back the intensity a little. Do that by doing one less set, dropping the load by 10%, doing fewer reps, or a combination of all of these.
You can also swap one exercise for another to work the same muscle group. For example, if the plan was to do squats to work quadriceps, it might be smart to do leg extensions instead if you’re feeling a sick. Use a chest press machine instead of a traditional bench press or heavy dumbell presses.
Related: How to Start Lifting
Do some work, get blood pumped into the target muscle groups, and avoid potential injury. Live to fight another day when you’re back up to 100%!
Make sure you wipe down your equipment, cough into your sleeve, and wash your hands a lot.
If it’s just coming on and you think you’re contagious, it’s probably best to workout at home.
If you’re at the tail-end of a cold – you know – the stage where it hangs on and on – go workout. When I’m in that situation, I remind myself that my quads are NOT sick.
HOW TO CHANGE FOOD
When your body is fighting off an infection, all resources are needed for that task. Calories are the resource in this case.
If you’re in a fat-loss phase and running a calorie deficit, stop that for now. Bring calories up to your maintenance level or a little above.
If you have an appetite at all, you might crave carbs because they are a fast source of energy. But what your body really needs is protein.
The immune system needs amino acids from protein.
When I catch a cold in a fat-loss phase, I close the deficit with increased protein. I’ll increase portion sizes a little and maybe add in a couple protein snacks. Shakes are the easiest to do when I’m not feeling well enough to cook.
If you get sick frequently, research glutamine. This amino acid is considered ineffective for muscle growth, but when I was teaching and I stopped taking it, I caught every cold bug that came to school. When I started taking it again, I stopped catching all the colds.
Glutamine has some benefits for gut health, too. Research it on your own before adding it to your supplements.
Google “glutamine and immune system” and you’ll find a lot of things to read to learn more about this amino acid.
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Hi! I'm Tammy! I was a busy, stressed, and unhealthy teacher until I decided to take control of my health. I did not become an athlete until I was in my 50's!
I earned personal training and fitness nutrition certifications, then retired from teaching to dedicate my work life to fitness education for other busy women over 40.
My results are obviously not typical because most people don't train to compete as a bodybuilder.
But I believe everyone can make positive changes with healthy habits! Each of us has a unique combination of strengths and challenges that need to be considered to customize a program that will work for us. Science-based principles, flexibility, and consistency make all the difference.