Why athletes (and us weekend warriors) should eat nutritional yeastThere is some interesting new information about why athletes (and us weekend warriors) should eat nutritional yeast. Research has shown that moderate exercise improves immunity and decreases illness rates. For those of us who do sustained and intense exercise, there may be an opposite effect. Dr. Michael Greger suggests that elite athletes should take the equivalent of a daily spoonful of nutritional yeast to better maintain the level of circulating white blood cells.

Why Athletes Should Eat Nutritional Yeast

September 4, 2014, Michael Greger: Does powering up at the gym also power up our immune system? Research has shown that moderate exercise improves immunity and decreases illness rates. According to an article in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, “the most important finding that has emerged from exercise immunology studies during the past two decades is that positive changes in our immune system take place during each bout of moderate physical activity. Over time, this translates to fewer days of sickness from, for example, the common cold and other upper respiratory infections.” The best available evidence suggests a 25% to 50% reduction in sick days. Name one drug or supplement that can do that!

And it doesn’t take much. Let kids run around for just six minutes and we can boost the number of immune cells circulating in their blood stream by more than a third.

At the other end of the life cycle, exercise may help prevent age-related immune decline. Sedentary women in their 70s may have a 50% chance of getting an upper respiratory illness during the fall season every year. But with just a half-hour walk each day, their risk is down to 20%. The runners in the group got it under 10%–five times better!

While regular physical activity improves immune function and lowers upper respiratory infection risk, sustained and intense exertion may have the opposite effect, forming a so-called J-shaped curve relationship (you can see this curve diagram in my video, Preserving Immune Function in Athletes With Nutritional Yeast). As we go from inactive to active, our infection risk declines. But if we overtrain, as hardcore athletes do, we may actually put excessive stress on our body and increase our risk of infection. Then we could lose training days, and our performance could suffer.

So how can we fight off sickness while continuing to train? Traditional sports medicine doesn’t appear to offer much help, advising athletes to basically not pick their nose, avoid sick people, and get a flu shot.

But there there may be a natural solution. A new study found that we can better maintain our level of circulating white blood cells after exhaustive exercise by consuming a special type of fiber found in baker’s, brewer’s, and nutritional yeast. (Brewer’s yeast is bitter, but nutritional yeast has a nice cheesy flavor. I use it mostly to sprinkle on popcorn). Normally, two hours after hardcore cycling, there can be a dip in circulating white blood cells, one of our first lines of defense. However, after strenuous exercise, those who ate the equivalent of less than three quarters of a teaspoon a day of nutritional yeast ended up even better than when they started.

Read Why Athletes Should Eat Nutritional Yeast

While I’ve never considered myself an elite athlete, I have ridden my bike in one day from Seattle to Portland (204 miles) and I ride several century (100 mile) rides each year. I’m happiest when my rides throughout a week are more than 20 miles. Prior to cycling, I ran and I completed 5 marathons. My experience is that this exercise has enhanced my immune. Throughout the week  I am exposed to colds, flu’s and who knows what else by clients in my office. I rarely have a sniffle – I just don’t get sick. I attribute my good health to exercise, plant based food and self hypnosis.

I trust and respect Dr. Greger so I will begin incorporating Dr. Greger’s nutritional yeast recommendations into my post-cycling recovery routine. I don’t like popcorn so I don’t know what I’ll put it on, but I’m sure I will figure it out.

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