Defending the Athlete’s Body — In the Time of Coronavirus / Covid-19

Photo: Thanks to Quino Al on Unsplash!

As an endurance athlete you’ve surely gathered your own list of foods and supplements that help you stay healthy and ward off illness when your body is under stress. Famously, within two weeks of running a marathon, up to 40 percent of finishers get sick.

I’ve been able to keep well to a large extent over the years even after committing the typical crazy endurance excesses, by adjusting my diet, rest patterns, and taking a few carefully chosen supplements.

It‘s my strong belief, unconfirmed by research findings – I’m sure they are there; I’m just too lazy to look them up – that keeping our immune systems strong will help us defend against the Covid-19 virus. It’s know that a certain number of people get the virus without ever entering the acute phase. I wonder – again, no research – if their immune systems were simply too strong to allow their bodies to succumb

Or if their bodies contained substances that the virus didn’t like. For example, zinc. I listened to a talk by a family physician recently who’s done a very good job of tracking the latest Covid findings and keeping us updated. In his talk he mentioned, more or less in passing, that some researchers now suspect that keeping the body well supplied with zinc creates a virus-hostile metabolic environment – in short, it provides a powerful defense against the disease. The usual caveats apply, of course: “Pending further research…” and “This has yet to be confirmed…”

That said, why not take zinc?

I’ve done so over the years, after learning from nutritionists and naturopathic physicians that the immune system needs zinc to function optimally. So, yes, I do take 15mg to 30mg per day.

A word about the varieties of zinc supplements. I recommend the optizinc formulas (from various brands). Optizinc is much less likely to cause nausea.

(At this writing, online supplement sellers had run out of zinc, although optizinc was available from some outlets on Amazon.)

Some supplement makers add copper to their zinc formulations. This, I believe is a mistake. A respected naturopathic physician confirmed to me recently that a healthy diet contains enough copper. I personally experienced the consequences of getting too much copper from taking a zinc-copper supplement – a known effect of excess copper is symptoms of dementia. And I definitely began to experience those in the form of mental confusion. When I switched to a copper-free optizinc the symptoms rapidly went away.

Another strong recommendation I’ve received from nutritionists and physicians alike for keeping the immune system strong is to eat primarily alkaline-forming foods. The immune system functions best in a very slightly alkaline metabolic environment.

“Alkalinizing” foods include fresh, raw or cooked organic vegetables and fruits, almonds, tofu and soy beans. It’s perfectly fine to eat slightly acid-forming foods such as most beans, peas, etc. But when the body is at risk or highly stressed it’s good to avoid highly acidifying foods such as fish, rice, wheat, etc. You can find acid-alkaline food lists with a simple Google Search.

In extreme circumstances – after a long, hard run or endurance event, for example, a nutritionist friend turned me on to the value of taking buffered vitamin C. This worked reliably for me over the years, when I would take maybe 1000 to 3000mg of buffered C after a 50-mile race, a marathon, or a seven-hour training run-walk in the hills.

Here’s a very important exception. Please do NOT overload on alkaline-forming supplements (e.g., buffered vitamin C, bicarbonate of soda, etc.), as this is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. Emergency rooms have a much harder time correcting metabolic alkalosis than hyperacidity. The risks are very serious – they include dizziness, difficulty breathing, confusion, stupor, and coma.

If you’re weary of hearing about the dangers of the present worldwide pandemic, and you’re wanting to look for solutions apart from social isolation and hand-washing, etc. – you may want to start by seeking ways to strengthen your body’s own defenses, and by supplying it with substances that are known to be unfriendly to the Covid virus.

Addendum: Here are a couple of interesting short articles by naturopathic physican friends of mine:

Coronavirus / Covid-19 Recommendations

Coronavirus Update: Is Intravenous High-Dose Vitamin C an Answer?