With the summer winding down, it’s not uncommon for runners to catch a nasty cold. If you're gearing up for a marathon and increased mileage, plus changes in work and family schedules, your immune system may become taxed. If you don’t address the first sign of cold symptoms, the virus can knock you out for a good seven days - not something you want in the thick of your training.
Good news. A group of researchers put together a meta-analysis of several studies and found that taking zinc acetate lozenges at the onset of cold symptoms reduced the duration of the common cold by about three days. Zinc lozenges have long been studied for its speculated effects on speeding up recovery from the common cold, but results have been inconsistent.
This meta-analysis included three studies that examined the difference between taking a placebo or a zinc acetate lozenge among participants with the common cold. The researchers found that the average length of a cold was seven days, but when participants took the zinc acetate lozenges with a dose greater than 75 mg per day, the cold symptoms only lasted about four days. This result was consistent regardless of certain factors, including allergies, smoking, cold severity, age, gender or ethnicity. Along with healthy eating habits and getting enough sleep, taking zinc acetate lozenges when you first feel a cold coming on can help reduce your symptoms and get you back on the road quicker.
BEAT THE COLD
There are steps you can take to stay healthy (or at least get back to training more quickly).
Find your zinc
Pick a zinc acetate lozenge with a dose between 80 and 92 mg per day. Read the label, since many lozenges on the market contain only a small amount of zinc. For brands with lower doses, you can have several lozenges a day to get up to the recommended amount. (This higher level of zinc is okay for the short term.) Lozenges may also have other substances, like citric acid, that make it harder for your body to absorb the zinc acetate.
Eat whole foods
Make fruits and veggies a priority to supply your body with essential nutrients so it’s ready to ward off pathogens. Also, choose foods that are good sources of zinc, such as meat, poultry, seafood, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereal, beans and dairy products.
Getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night allows your body to repair and restore itself, as well as strengthening your immune system. Sleep is extra important when you are sick, since resting lets your body devote more of its energy toward fighting off disease.
Listen to your mum
She was right about soup. There’s nothing quite like a restorative bowl when you’re feeling under the weather. The steam helps clear up sinuses, and the broth (whether chicken or low-sodium vegetable) is chock-full of nutrients. And sipping on soup is an easy way to nourish yourself, since illness can decrease appetite.