How To Train and Eat When You’re Sick

There’s a solid flu going around at the moment so I thought i’d throw some pointers together about what you can do with your training and food so you don’t go too far backwards.

How do I know if I’m too sick?

I ask people how they feel at the start of a session “on a scale of 1-10 how do you feel?”  Anything below 4 and you’re going home.. This works in relation to fatigue and general well-being too.  If you’re below a 4, you have no business in the gym.  Doesn’t sound very scientific though does it?

Word From the Mayo Clinic
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website:

“Yes, you can continue with mild or moderate activity if you have a cold with no fever. Exercise may even help you feel better by temporarily relieving nasal congestion. So how do you determine if you’re too sick to exercise? Here’s a good rule of thumb: If your symptoms are “above the neck” such as runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, or sore throat then you can proceed with your workout.

However, if your symptoms are “below the neck” such as chest congestion or tightness, hacking cough, or upset stomach, you should postpone your workout. Also, you shouldn’t exercise if you have a fever, fatigue or widespread muscle aches. Rarely, exercising with a fever has been associated with inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis).


Now more than ever do you need to eat nutrient dense food that is packed with protein, vitamins and minerals.

Proteins are essential to help your body maintain and build strength.  Lean meat, poultry, fish, legumes, dairy, eggs, and nuts and seeds are good sources of protein.  So when you feel fatigued from the flu under eating protein is only going to make you feel weaker.  Plus given amino acids role in brain function, if you don’t eat your protein you’ll end up with that glazed space cadet persona only the vegetarian at the whole food store can truly master.


Vitamin dense foods need to be eaten to support the immune system.  Plenty of purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow hues in those veggies.  Now would be a good time to smash some multi vitamins as well.

Get some flavanoids into you too.  This is where the whole vitamin c thing comes from.

“Flavonoids (or bioflavonoids) include about 4,000 compounds that are responsible for the colors of fruits and flowers. Findings show that flavonoids found in the soft white skin of citrus fruits increase immune system activation.  Flavonoids are found in grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and limes.  But remember, eat the whole food as a supplement will forgo thousands of those other flavanoids in favour of something in isolation”

I’ll give you a $1000 if you can name the number one anti oxidant in the body?  The mother of all antioxidants??  If you said glutathione then the money is yours!


What is “gloota-thigh-own”…..

“Glutathione is a very simple molecule that is produced naturally all the time in your body. It is a combination of three simple building blocks of protein or amino acids — cysteine, glycine and glutamate ( more bad news for veggo’s.  low gloota-thigh-own from low amino acid pools)

The secret of its power is the sulfur (SH) chemical groups it contains. Sulfur is a sticky, smelly molecule. It acts like fly paper and all the bad things in the body stick onto it, including free radicals and toxins.  Normally glutathione is recycled in the body — except when the toxic load becomes too great.”

Essentially your body “handcuffs” toxins to a glutathione chaperone through a process called conjugation. Your body then “walks” the toxin handcuffed to glutathione out of the body—usually via the kidneys and urine.

So you need a constant supply of glutathione.

(Unfortunately, glutathione supplements taken orally are very poorly absorbed and have not raised glutathione levels in the blood. So save your money)

What you need are the building blocks to glutathione.  Glutathione contains the following 3 amino acids linked together:


Cysteine is the scarcest of these 3 amino acids. So, by eating foods that are rich in cysteine, a sulphur-containing amino acid, you help boost your levels of glutathione.

Foods containing high levels of sulfur-containing amino acids include raw eggs, garlic, onions and fresh unprocessed meats.

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) promotes the synthesis of glutathione in the body. Food sources of ALA include spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, peas, Brussels sprouts, and rice bran.

Selenium is required for several glutathione-based enzymes during detoxification. That is, these enzymes link or “handcuff” the toxin with glutathione.

If you’re low in selenium, then your body can’t produce optimal levels of detoxifying glutathione-based enzymes.

One of the richest sources of selenium is brazil nuts. You can easily snack on 2-4 nuts daily to get your 150-200 mcg of selenium.

Whey Protein powder are fairly high sources of glutathione and appear to be readily absorbed.


The human body has A LOT of bacteria in it.  Bad news for you hypochondriacs.  It is estimated that 500 to 1,000 species of bacteria live in the human gut.  The good so to speak are responsible for 80% of your immune system meaning you could be getting sick all the time because you’re out of balance.

Bacterial cells are much smaller than human cells, and there are at least ten times as many bacteria as human cells in the body. The mass of microorganisms are estimated to account for 1-3% total body mass.

Yeah work that out dexter, 3% of the average male is about 2.5kg of bacteria! Nom nom nom

Though members of the flora are found on all surfaces exposed to the environment (on the skin and eyes, in the mouth, nose, small intestine), the vast majority of bacteria live in the large intestine.

This is why you should be taking your probiotics every day to offset all the antibiotics we are exposed to in food and from over prescription.  If you’re not a probiotic fan, there’s probably something wrong with you but eat plenty of fermented foods to get these bacteria naturally.

One of the most healthful fermented foods is Kefir. Kefir is an ancient cultured, enzyme-rich food full of friendly microorganisms that balance your “inner ecosystem” and strengthen immunity.

I have never eaten kefir.

Besides kefir, other good fermented foods include natto, kimchee, miso, tempeh, pickles, sauerkraut, yogurt (watch out for sugar), and olives.

I like pickles, olives, miso and high protein yoghurt.

Friendly bacteria have a powerful, beneficial effect on your gut’s immune system, your first line of defense against pathogens, and aid in the production of antibodies


Sugar needs to be kept low as sugar in excessive amounts depresses the immune system.  By all means have complex carbs but smashing whole tubs of ice cream isn’t going to help.

I don’t know what the psychological reason behind eating shitty foods when your sick is but like most things its probably got something to do with your mummy and what she gave you when you were sick.


Don’t skimp on quality protein
Plenty of coloured vegetables
A little fruit
Minimise simple sugars and eat complex carbs
A little fermented foods
A little protein powder

Wait…wait…wait!  Hang on a sec?  That just sounds like a sensible food plan?  Mind blowing isn’t it?  Doesn’t even have a fancy name.  




This is a big one.  Especially for weight training males looking to fill out their shirt sleeves.  We tend to think that if we skip a day in the gym we are obviously a little girl and we’ll lose all our gains over night.  Not true but the mind is a powerful tool.

You need to drop your volume and a lot of the time your intensity.  Intensity in this case is measured as a percent of your 1 repetition max.  The worse you feel the less intensity and the less volume.  Say you were supposed to do 5 sets of every exercise you might have to drop it back to  3 or 2.  Say you were supposed to lift 100kg, you might have to make it 60-80..  It’s a sliding scale that yes will mean if you feel bad enough you need to stay away from the gym and rest.  But if you’ve just got a bit of a head cold and scratchy throat going through the motions can make you feel like you’re still working towards your goal and not losing gains..


Hopefully you haven’t bought the latest bullshit fad of no cardio and are doing it in some form.  Same thing goes here.  Drop the intensity.  Intensity being in relation to max effort.  A 50 min sprint is max effort.  A walk along the beach is not.  So instead of doing metabolic conditioning or sprint work that will drain your precious nervous system you could do a long (60-75 min ) walk..

Once again this is so you feel like you’re still working towards your goal.  

I hope that helps.

Brad Stocks

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