A Guide to Macro Immune Health for Athletes (Part 1)

Sponsored Klean Athlete Brandie Wilkerson taking a break from weight-lifting.

It’s pretty simple: the healthier you are as an athlete, the more you can train. This means focusing on proper nutrition to support your entire body, including your immune system. Intensified training, low energy and macro-and micronutrient availability, psychological stress, sleep disruption, and suboptimal recovery can all affect your immune system.

To help keep your immune system in good shape, this three-part series will outline immune-supportive rules to live by, including key macro- (carbs, protein, fat, and fluids) and micronutrient (vitamin and minerals) recommendations, guidelines for immune-friendly nutritional supplements, and a handful of general lifestyle habits.

Let’s start with the macronutrient basics…

Klean Macronutrient Immune Health Guidelines


Consuming adequate calories is critical to properly feeding an athlete’s immune cells. Female athletes need at least 35-41 calories per kilogram (kg) of body weight, while male athletes should aim for 38-51 calories/kg.

Infographic showing details of each macro nutrient.


Carbohydrates (CHO) are the ‘GO’ nutrient, providing immune cells with an immediate energy source, not to mention an equally superior fuel source for the muscles, brain, and other key players on the human-machine performance team.

To ensure proper daily carb intake, consume 3-5 g/kg/day during low-intensity training, 5-7 g/kg/day during moderate intensity, and 8-12 g/kg during high-intensity or long-duration training.

Additionally, ingestion of 30-60 grams CHO/hr during exercise has been shown to support healthy immune and stress responses in those exercising continuously for greater than 60-90 minutes.
Carbohydrate-friendly options include:

  • Unprocessed whole-grain breads; cereals and pasta
  • Brown or wild rice
  • Vegetables such as sweet potatoes, corn, and peas
  • Fresh fruits
  • Low-fat milk or yogurt
  • Or simply add a scoop of Klean Recovery into the mix.


The importance of dietary protein (PRO) to immunity has been demonstrated repeatedly in research studies on athletes.

Research has confirmed that protein balance can be preserved, and the immune system can be supported by ingesting 1.2-1.6 g/kg/day of a variety of protein sources. First-rate options include:

  • Lean meats
  • Baked or grilled fish
  • Eggs
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains

Athletes can also incorporate Klean Isolate in Chocolate or Unflavoured and/or Klean Essential Aminos +HMB to ensure their immune cells are restocked with the essential amino acids that are depleted during exercise.


To round out a well-balanced, immune-supportive diet, strive for 1.0-2.0 grams of FAT/kg/day.

For ultra-endurance athletes, aim for the high side of this range and possibly push to 3.0 g/kg/day to ensure a good supply of intramuscular triglyceride fuel to go the distance.
Fantastic fats include but are not limited to:

  •  Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna, and anchovies
  •  Nuts and seeds, including their butter
  •  Oils; olives and olive oil
  •  Avocadoes

Another option is to add a dose of Klean Omega to your daily routine to infuse the body with 750 mg of brain-friendly omega-3 fatty acids.


Cortisol and epinephrine are two immune-suppressing hormones that rise during exercise, especially when volume and intensity escalate.

Studies have found that maintaining adequate hydration can positively impact the immune system during exercise. Lightly active women should aim for 2-2.2 litres a day, while men should reach for 2.6-3 litres. Once the intensity and duration of training increase, fluid requirements follow.

For athletes to optimally hydrate, they must first meet the basic hydration guidelines and then add 500-700ml of fluid for each pound lost during exercise.

A simple solution: Klean Hydration and Klean Electrolytes to maximise fluid intake and minimise fluid loss.

A Final Word…

A balanced diet that provides ample energy from carbs, protein, and fat will keep immune defences robust and optimise an athlete’s availability to train and compete. Aim to keep carb, protein, and fat calories clean and unprocessed to ensure maximal intake of key vitamins and minerals.

Stay tuned, as the second article in this series will explore some of the key micronutrients and nutritional supplements that are known to support the inner workings of the immune system.

How Athletes Can Keep Their Nutrition On Track


How Athletes Can Keep Their Nutrition On Track

2020-11-05 08:53:36By Klean Athlete

Created by Karlyn Grimes, MS RD LDN CSSD+
(biography click here)
+Karlyn Grimes, MS, RD, LDN, CSSD is a retained advisor for Klean Athlete.

• Palmowski, J., BoBlau, T.K., Ryl, L., Kruger, K., & Reichel, T. (2019). Managing Immune Health in Sports – A Practical Guide for Athletes and Coaches. German Journal of Sports Medicine, 70(10), 219.

Klean Athlete

Klean Athlete

Klean Athlete