A Guide to Macro Immune Health for Athletes (Part 3)

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Parts one and two in this immune health series for athletes focused on practical, nutrition-based interventions to optimise immune system functioning. Part three will focus on lifestyle behaviours that can be employed to promote optimal immune health and resilience, thereby allowing training to continue unabated.

Klean Lifestyle Immune Health Guidelines

lifestyle immune health infographic

Training Load Supervision

Regular exercise keeps our immune systems happy, but chronic overreaching or overtraining can alter immune function, leaving you side-lined and unable to progressively improve your performance. It’s generally recommended to minimise increases in training duration, volume, and intensity to less than 10%, and integrate recovery protocols as workouts intensify.

It’s also useful to maintain a simple log that subjectively monitors for signs and symptoms of overreaching, such as soreness, fatigue, irritability, overuse, reduced appetite, weight loss, disturbed sleep, altered immune function, loss of motivation, and overall performance decline. If these symptoms sound familiar, then it’s time to rethink your training and recovery plan.


It’s been well-established that there is an intimate relationship between mind and body. The immune system is impacted when excessive levels of psychological stress, including that from high volume and/or intensity training, are paired with inadequate coping strategies. Furthermore, oxidative stress and muscle damage can impact mental health status.

Relaxing recommendations:

  • Lighten up! Incorporate cognitive and/or somatic-based strategies such as imagery, progressive muscle relaxation and breathing exercises into your daily routine. Mindfulness meditation training for sport (MMTS) is a technique shown to improve overall well-being by boosting tolerance of negative experiences and enhancing mental flexibility, allowing for a reduction in the perception of stress.
  • Positive self-talk will reduce nerves and performance anxiety while boosting confidence, all of which positively affect immunity.
  • There’s no way around it, training is hard, and excellence requires effort. When the going gets tough, you need to stand strong and remind yourself of the performance rewards while at the same time keeping in mind that the body will need regular physical and mental breaks to truly optimise performance.
  • Klean Focus will help dial in your mental game by providing antioxidants and other nutrients that support cognition.

Sleep Hygiene Tactics

In addition to overtraining, inadequate recovery, and stress, there are other factors that can lead to performance-limiting sleep disturbances that can have cumulative effects on the human immune system.

Research has shown that at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night are required for psychological wellbeing, mood stability, attentiveness, and immune resilience.

How to Get Better Sleep:

  • Aim to sleep in a cool, dark bedroom.
  • Try using white noise to block out distractions.
  • Meditation may help transition from the daily grind to a restful state.
  • If you train and live with other athletes, pair up with those who have similar circadian rhythms.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages and/or alcohol within 4 hours of bedtime. Caffeine blocks brain chemicals that induce sleep, while overconsumption of alcohol can disrupt sleep quality, all of which can be detrimental to performance.
  • Minimise dysregulation of the sleep hormone melatonin by avoiding blue light-emitting sources such as computer screens and tablets, cell phones, and flat-screen televisions 30 minutes before bedtime.

The Importance of Good Hygiene for Your Immune System

Here are some tips and reminders:

Hygiene Best Practice for Athletes

  • Athletes need to wash their hands regularly, especially before meals, and after contact with potentially contaminated equipment, people, public places, and bathrooms. It’s recommended that you wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol or >70% isopropanol.
  • Whenever possible, use single-use, disposable paper towels, and personal water bottles, cups, and towels to reduce germ-sharing.
  • Halt self-inoculation by avoiding touching the eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cough and sneeze into the crook of the elbow.
  • Refrain from exercise sessions in poorly ventilated gyms and workout facilities.
  • When required, wear face masks. Athletes should look for masks made from lightweight, moisture-wicking, breathable materials. Additionally, masks containing elastane or spandex will allow the mask to move with the body during workouts.

A Final Word…

Athletes following the tips and guidelines outlined in this three-part immunity series will have a greater chance of maintaining a rigorous, year-round training schedule.

Always keep in mind that nutritional immune health is not one size fits all. Experimentation with these guidelines will help an athlete find his or her own personal recipe for building an immunity fortress. Be well!

Explore our immunity bundle designed with your health in mind at Klean Athlete.

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.


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