As fitness junkies, one of the worst things that can happen to us is to be unable to go to the gym. Whether it’s illness or injury, we hate to be down and out and unable to exercise. The seasons’ changing brings cold and flu season, and this year we’re also still dealing with a global pandemic. It seems inevitable that we’ll all get sick with something unless we lock ourselves in one room and don’t come out.
Flu shots and vitamins are great, but unfortunately, nothing offers 100% protection from catching a bug. If you do come down with an illness, you might wonder if you can push through, chug some pre-workout, and still make it to the gym. We worry about losing the progress we’ve worked so hard for, we worry about the effect on our mental health, and we worry about falling out of the healthy habit of daily exercise.
The best advice about working out and suffering a setback is this: physical fitness is a lifelong journey. It can be easy and tempting to focus on short term goals. In fact, short term goals are a great way to stay motivated and make measurable progress. However, amid the workouts, the pre-workouts, vitamins, and BCAA supplements, we must not forget that in the grand scheme of things, our fitness journey is mostly about taking care of our bodies so that our bodies take care of us for a long and healthy life.
Too often, people begin looking for quick fixes and magic vitamin pills or pre-workouts to drop weight fast or gain crazy muscle quickly for aesthetic reasons at the cost of their health and disregard the actual point of staying fit. If you can begin to shift your focus to the bigger picture and the more long-term, lifelong goal of a long and healthy life, minor setbacks like a week off due to a cold or a month off due to an injury won’t seem as dire.
With all that said, the most critical thing to do if you come down with a cold or the flu is to listen to your body. If your body is saying it needs rest, respect that. Secondly, consider other people. The flu is highly contagious and can be fatal to vulnerable groups of the population. Covid-19 symptoms can mimic that of the common cold or flu but can be fatal to anyone, even if your symptoms are mild. If you have a contagious bug, please stay away from the gym. If you feel well enough to consider working out, pop some pre-workout and do so at your own home.
If you aren’t feeling great, but you’re not so sick that you can’t get out of bed, a workout might be tempting you. Is it safe to work out while sick? Medical professionals don’t recommend exercise if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:
Even a low-grade fever can cause symptoms such as weakness and muscle aches and decrease strength, endurance, and coordination, meaning that you’re far more likely to injure yourself. You’re also at an increased risk of dehydration when you’re feverish and working out can worsen your fever.
Avoid taking pre-workouts containing a thermogenic when you have a fever. Thermogenic supplements are meant to raise your body temperature and may make your fever worse. However, consider taking your BCAAs if they have an added hydration factor, even if you can’t work out.
A mild tickle in the throat or dry cough is fine, but when you have a frequent, productive cough, it can indicate that your body needs plenty of rest. Not only does a frequent cough impair your ability to breathe deeply but coughing up nasty stuff is a sign of an infection that requires rest and sometimes treatment.
Plenty of liquids like tea and your BCAAs can help loosen up the phlegm and offer relief to your sore throat.
Skip the workouts if you’re suffering from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach cramping. These symptoms put you at a greater risk for dehydration and often come hand in hand with weakness, which means you can be injured more easily. Luckily, symptoms like these don’t generally last more than a few days, so you should be back at it before too long.
Skip the BCAAs, vitamins, and other supplements when your stomach is queasy as well. There’s no sense in taking your supplements then having them come back up.
Symptoms like head congestion, headache, earache, and sneezing are typically less severe and ok to work out with. With that said, you should still listen to your body above the advice of an article online. If your head is pounding, just take a rest day and use your BCAAs to maintain adequate hydration.
Now that you know the symptoms you should not work out with, let’s talk about whether or not you should work out if you’re not feeling great, but you don’t have the symptoms listed above. Should you work out?
The answer is again, listen to your body. If you need a rest day, take a rest day. Let go of the idea that fitness is rigid and try to understand that resting your body is as essential as your workouts themselves. A missed workout or even a week of workouts doesn’t mean you’re lazy, you’re going to lose every ounce of progress, or anything else. All it means is you’re respecting what your body is asking for.
If you’re on the mend from a cold or the flu or you feel like your body can handle a workout, just take it easy. Any form of movement is beneficial, so if you want to exercise, go for a walk, do some yoga, or do a home workout at about 50% effort and intensity. You can continue to take your BCAA and pre-workouts as you typically use them.
“Sweating it out” is the idea that raising your body temperature and increasing perspiration can somehow rid your body of infection. Many people attempt to sweat out a cold by exercising or sitting in saunas, steam rooms, or hot tubs.
It’s true that when feverish, the human body often does perspire. However, sweating is a means of cooling the body, not of ridding it of infections. Many methods used to sweat it out – like saunas or steam rooms - may offer temporary relief of symptoms, but the only way to help your body fight off germs is rest and take medication when prescribed.
In general, it takes a relatively long time to begin to lose muscle and experience decreased strength. Athletes, or individuals who exercise five or six times a week for longer than a year, won’t experience a decrease in strength or muscle until after three to four weeks of doing nothing.
The older we get, the quicker we will experience drops in strength and muscle, as it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain muscle mass. This is also why meeting protein goals and taking BCAAs becomes increasingly vital as we age.
The good news is that while it takes increased time under tension to continue to gain muscle, it takes minimal stimulus to maintain muscle. Meaning that even a significantly lighter workout than you’re accustomed to will still help maintain the muscle you’ve built. Additionally, by focusing on your nutritional goals and maintaining protein needs with the use of BCAAs and protein supplements, if needed, you should not experience a loss of muscle mass.
More good news is that athletes tend to regain their strength and muscle mass quickly after a workout hiatus, thanks to muscle memory. The bottom line is that you should never be afraid to give your body a break because you can quickly regain anything you’ve lost, and pushing through illness or injury can often lead to bigger and more significant setbacks.
You can and should still take some of your dietary supplements, even when you’re not working out as hard as you typically do. The exception to this advice is, of course, if you’re experiencing digestive symptoms that aren’t allowing you to keep anything down.
Continue taking your vitamins throughout your illness, unless otherwise indicated by your primary care physician. Vitamins help to provide your body with essential micronutrients needed to thrive and to heal from illness. Some vitamins like vitamin B, vitamin B, and vitamin D play crucial roles in immunity and the immune response. Vitamin C can offer some mild symptom relief.
Multi-vitamins are an excellent everyday supplement staple.
BCAA supplements can help maintain your muscle mass, even when you’re not working out. Continuing to meet your protein goals is essential to supporting your muscles when you’re not working them out in the gym. Some BCAA supplements also offer added hydration, so they could be a good addition, even if you’re stuck on the couch with a fever.
Optimum Nutrition’s Amino Energy + Electrolytes is a highly rated BCAA supplement with added hydration factors.
If you’re not working out, you don’t need to take your pre-workout. If you are going to work out you can still take your pre-workout, even if you plan to have a mild workout, though you can go without if you so choose. Pre-workouts are an excellent supplement and foundational product; however, many people go entirely without a pre-workout, so don’t worry about skipping it when you’re ill.\
Alternatively, some people chose pre-workout in the morning instead of coffee or tea. If your body is screaming for rest, skip the morning pre-workout and stay in bed instead.
If you do choose to take a pre-workout while sick, PEScience High Volume is a great option that provides you with a great pump, without caffeine, so you won’t be too amped up on pre-workout to rest afterward.
Ideally, even when you’re ill, you will hit your nutritional goals. Protein shakes are a great option to get some macronutrients and some hydration even if you’ve lost your appetite.
The longer you’re down and out and unable to work out, the more critical your nutrition and supplements like vitamins, BCAAs, and protein become. You should always strive to get the micronutrients from vitamins into your diet, and many people rely on vitamin supplements to achieve this regularly.
BCAA supplements are great to take to ensure you’re providing your muscles with the essential BCAAs required to make complete proteins.
When you’re still feeling under the weather, but you’re itching to get in some exercise, try this easy at home, full-body workout. Take your vitamins and your pre-workout, then begin.
You will need two light to medium dumbbells. Complete one to three sets with eight to twelve reps each, all dependent upon how you feel. Accept that you might have to stop short of your goal for this workout if you’ve been very ill, as sometimes you feel better and yet moving your body tends to drain your energy significantly.
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Dumbbell Tricep Extension
Straight-leg Dumbbell Deadlift
Dumbbell Hammer Curls
Dumbbell or Bodyweight Squats
Bent-Over Dumbbell Rows
End your workout with a protein shake and your BCAAs to feed your muscles, rehydrate, and prevent soreness as you recover.
Once you’ve recovered from your illness, you’re going to feel tempted to jump back into your gym, take your pre-workout, and start pumping out the workouts to which you’re accustomed. Slow your roll, because while it takes three to four weeks to start losing muscle and strength, it doesn’t take much time off to experience sore muscles all over again. Don’t push yourself and then be too sore to make it to the gym tomorrow (hint, hint, take your BCAAs to help prevent muscle soreness). Additionally, as mentioned, you can sometimes feel particularly good when you’re recovering from illness until you start exercising and then feel completely fatigued.
Depending on how long you’ve been out of the gym, ease your workout’s intensity for one workout to a full week of workouts. Remember, your fitness is a marathon, not a sprint.
With the use of vitamins, BCAAs, pre-workouts, and most importantly, your workout regimen and balanced diet, you are doing all you can to boost your immunity and avoid illness this cold and flu season. Additionally, frequently washing your hands, adequate rest, and getting your flu shot every year are all steps you can and should take to protect yourselves and your loved ones.
Unfortunately, sometimes with all the prevention steps and all the vitamins, pre-workouts, and BCAAs in the world, you still come down with a bug. Rest assured that minor setbacks will not destroy your progress and ultimately stop you from achieving your fitness goals. Above all, fitness is about taking care of yourself and keeping your body in its best condition.
More than vitamins, supplements, pre-workouts, and BCAAs, a hugely overlooked portion of fitness is rest. It’s arguably the most crucial portion. Without rest, your body never has a chance to recover from the stress of your workouts, let alone illness. So, remember to treat your body right. Supplement Superstore is here to offer you all the fitness advice we can and supply you with trusted supplements to assist in meeting your fitness goals. Stay well this season!
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