5 simple ways to fight off colds and bugs

January 14th 2019

By Linda Hill
Categories: Triathlon Training

5 simple ways to fight off colds and bugs

At this time of year, we’re all doing our best to stay healthy and fight off colds and bugs. This is not always possible as we return to work, the kids return to school and our exposure increases.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to boost your immune system and maybe help avoid bugs altogether, or at least bounce back quicker.

1. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is the go-to supplement for combatting cold, reaching for citrus fruits tend to be our habitual default when we suspect a cold.

There have been many studies into its effectiveness over the years, and there are 2 main findings linked to vitamin C’s ability to aid the body:

  1. Taking daily doses of vitamin C won’t reduce the frequency of contracting colds in a healthy population
  2. However, taking Vitamin C as soon as you suspect a cold is forming can help to “reduce the duration of a cold by 8-14% in any population”1

a. Superloading can be more effective, but more studying is needed to prove this theory

However, don’t think that citrus fruits are the only food that contain vitamin C. Green vegetables such as broccoli and peppers contain almost 1.5x the amount of vitamin C per 100grams than an orange! Just make sure you don’t cook (boil/steam) these vegetables too much – you will remove the vitamin C content.

2Eat plenty of onions, garlic and ginger

All three of these items are usually in the kitchen, but did you know they also aid to fight off colds and coughs – just like foods high in vitamin C?!

Just like the vitamin C foods, consuming them in as raw a state as possible will give you the best results. Want to find out more about these simple but potent vegetables; take a look at:


Studies have shown that the body’s immune system can be compromised for 72 hours when a ≥90-minute session / event is performed. These 90-minute episodes can be at aerobic (low-medium) intensity and STILL impact your immune system!

Post-exercise immune function depression is most pronounced when the exercise is continuous, prolonged (>90 minutes), and at 55-75% of aerobic capacity2

Gleeson et al. 2013.

Providing you follow a training plan that is progressive and strategic, having gradual increases to duration and intensity, your body will be stronger and more able to recover from these sessions.

Long-distance triathletes will, and should, be doing these long sessions. Just implement them properly and make sure that for the following 3-days you assess your wellbeing for signs of unusual fatigue or suspected lurgies!

4. Keep warm and dry when training outdoors

Make sure you have suitable clothing for training outdoors (for all seasons). For winter, make sure you have warm, breathable, base layers and wind- and water-proof top layers.

Getting wet (from the weather or sweat) mixed with wind chill will soon lower your body temperature and then your immune system’s ability to respond to viruses.

We found that the innate immune response to the rhinovirus (the common stand of cold) is impaired at the lower body temperature compared to the core body temperature (37°C)”

The study also strongly suggested that the varying temperatures influenced the immune response, rather than the virus itself.”3

Akiko Iwasaki, Yale professor of Immunobiology

Basically, if you are training in the elements, make sure you are warm and wind-proofed so your body temperature doesn’t drop and hinder your immune systems ability to fight off colds / bugs!

5. Remove outdoor training gear and shower as soon as possible

Many people squeeze in their training around life. This often means training and then getting straight back into the daily routine. Heading out for a run or bike (hopefully in the right attire) after work and then get started on cooking dinner.

This might feel like the most efficient way of doing the daily tasks but lingering around in damp clothing will sap your body heat, lowering your immune system ability to function.

Rather than rushing into the next task after training, freshen up and dry off first. Timewise, it shouldn’t make any difference – you would shower at some point? Do it first.


  1. https://examine.com/supplements/vitamin-c/
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/276714.php
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/garlic-fights-colds-and-flu#section3
  4. https://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/10-benefits-of-ginger-that-you-didnt-know-about.html
  5. http://www.mysportscience.com/single-post/2016/09/25/Strategies-to-reduce-illness-risk-in-athletes-Part-1-Behavioural-lifestyle-and-medical-strategies
  6. https://sciencesprings.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/from-yale-cold-virus-replicates-better-at-cooler-temperatures/