Ask the Coach: Avoiding the Flu Bug

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Last fall, I got the flu the night before a 50K and was miserable the entire race. How should I keep myself healthy and race-ready during flu season?
—Sheri Atkinson, Broomfield, CO

Getting nipped by a nasty bug pre-race has happened to many of us. Coach even knows runners who have crashed and burned mid-race from a bug taking hold of their race-stressed bodies.

David Nieman, Ph.D., an internationally known immunity researcher who has run 58 marathons, says there is huge immunity-strengthening promise in a plant-based flavenoid (an antioxidant) called quercetin. Research published in 2007 found only five percent of subjects who overtrained heavily for three days but who took quercetin got sick afterward, while 45 percent of those on a placebo did. So when can we get this stuff? Nieman thinks that it will be available in a sports drink or a soft chew in about a year. Meanwhile, it can be found in various strengths as a supplement in pill or liquid form (check your local health-food stores), and is available in a drink called FRS (

In addition, Nieman has the following tips based on more than two decades of research at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina: Lower stress in your life, including family, work and personal; get enough sleep; maintain a stable weight; eat a balanced diet with enough protein, carbohydrates and fat; avoid large crowds and sick people before your event; and eat enough carbohydrates during long runs. Research shows that drinking a liter of sports drink per hour provides adequate carbs. Or just drink lots of fluids and eat equivalent carbs.

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