Many runners experience illness and infection, especially upper respiratory tract infections and digestive illness and concerns. These issues can lead to time away from running, or at least a reduced training load until fully recovered, which can be frustrating.

There appears to be significant developments in the approach to supporting an athlete’s immune health nutritionally, so here we outline the current scientific thinking on this subject. 

We give you:

1. An overview of the potential paradigm shift in optimising an athlete’s immune health

2. An introduction to the nutritional influence in supporting this paradigm shift

3. Some ideas of how to introduce the nutritional recommendations into your meal plan

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Outlining the key paradigm shift with regards to immune health and athletes and discussing the new and current scientific thinking. 

The paradigm shift involves the concept of immune reset resistance versus immune tolerance



Two recent studies carried out on female athletes showed that approximately HALF of them were classified as having low energy availability (LEA). This LEA appeared to be associated with a 4-8 times higher risk of developing an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI). It must be stressed that it was an association with, rather than a causation of an URTI. BUT it does suggest that LEA may be a risk factor for reduced immunity and infection. 


Delving into the nutritional influence in supporting this paradigm shift in immune health of athletes. 

The key nutrients of interest include:

  • Protein
  • Probiotics
  • Vitamin C 
  • Vitamin D


TIPS on introducing Probiotics and Vitamin C into a regular meal plan


Giving advice regarding testing Vitamin D levels



  1. The current scientific thinking about immune health in athletes is shifting from the concept of immune resistance to the idea of immune tolerance
  2. Focusing on immune tolerance it thought to mean more targeted nutritional supplementation could be used in reducing the infection burden in athletes 
  3. Regarding immune tolerance in athletes, the current nutritional focus is on Protein, Probiotics, Vitamin C and Vitamin D
  4. Introducing adequate amounts of foods containing these nutrients/microbes into your meal plan on a regular basis may be sufficient to maintain already adequate levels
  5. BUT…if insufficiency or deficiency in any of these nutrients/microbes are present then nutritional supplementation may be required
  6. Finally, we recommend you work with a qualified practitioner when considering nutritional supplementation as requirements and suitability of supplements needs to be personalised

Related Topics:

Endurance Running and Immune Health

Spotlight on Probiotics for Performance

Spotlight on Vitamin C for Runners


The suggestions we make during this episode are for guidance and advice only, and are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you have any concerns regarding your health, please contact your healthcare professional for advice as soon as possible.

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Best Wishes and Happy Running!

Karen and Aileen