I sure know how to suffer whenever I catch a cold or the flu… I feel miserable, helpless, and completely useless. The worst part is that my workouts are also affected negatively. Yes, I work out even when I’m sick (not a smart idea by the way, as my body needs to rest, but I still feel that I need my workouts to feel better both mentally and emotionally). It’ worth noting though that whenever I’m contagious, I just go for a home-workout to make sure I’m not that jerk who goes to the gym and infects everyone.
Last week, the weather was amazing here in Amsterdam – so great in fact, that I decided to sleep with an open window…
Long story short, I woke up the next day with a slightly sore throat; nothing serious, but that was just the beginning. Usually it takes about 1-3 days after experiencing the first symptoms for me to feel sick. But I don’t like to sit around and wait till I’m really sick – I want to speed my recovery up as much as possible, so I can get back on my feet again and hit my workouts harder than ever before! To do this, I have some home remedies – most of them backed by science – that I’ve found to significantly shorten the duration and mitigate the severity of my colds and flus.
A simple cold or a flu shouldn’t set you back on your training schedule for weeks either. Here are my top tips that I use to make sure I’m back in the gym in no time!
1. Take key supplements
I always take my supplements seriously – while they’re no magic pills, they do help me stay healthier, recover faster, and push myself harder in the gym. With that being said, there are three supplements that I make sure are on point every time I feel that something’s wrong with my health.
- Multivitamin: While multivitamins won’t get rid of your cold directly, supplementing with a multivitamin does ensure that your body has all the vitamins and minerals it needs to function properly. This is especially important whenever you’re sick and weak, as a vitamin-deficiency can make matters even worse!
- Vitamin-D: Probably the most important vitamin (not actually a real vitamin, but whatever) to boost your immune-system is vitamin-D. Your body can produce vitamin-D naturally in the presence of sunlight – but there is very limited sunlight in the winter months, so most people experience some degree of vitamin-D deficiency. Supplementing with vitamin-D will help strengthen your immune-system so that it can fight off infections – such as the cold or the flu – making them less severe and speeding up your recovery.
- Vitamin-C: Many studies have shown that vitamin-C plays an important role in recovering from an infection such as the common cold – especially true for athletes and those who live a physically active lifestyle (you already know that you should be training). While you shouldn’t expect vitamin-C to do wonders on its own, you should definitely include it in your recovery-plan!
- Zinc: This is a mineral that boosts your immune-system in more ways than one – crucial to healing as fast as possible. One study found that zinc can shorten the duration of colds by up to 33%. While these results may vary in each case, zinc will definitely help you recover faster.
There are many supplements, vitamins, and minerals out there, but I’ve found that – along with a good multivitamin – these 3 micronutrients are the best at helping my body fight off a cold. I recommend using this multivitamin, as it’s the best one I’ve ever tried, and this supplement (very high in vitamin-D and zinc, among others). As far as vitamin-C goes, this one is a perfect choice.
2. Natural remedies
If you search the web for natural remedies to cure a cold or a flu, you’ll find an endless amount of articles ranging from common knowledge, all the way to pure bullshit. The truth is that there are a handful of natural remedies that actually work really well – and most of them can be bought at your local supermarket!
- Ginger: My number-one favorite natural remedy to treat my cold is ginger. Whenever I’m sick, I put freshly grated ginger in almost everything: my tea, my orange-juice, and I even eat it on its own. Ginger kills the viruses responsible for the cold in the first place (rhinoviruses), while reducing inflammation. You don’t have to overdo it – too much ginger might upset your stomach – but find a balance that lets you experience all the benefits without the side-effects.
- Garlic and onions: Usually I eat a bowl of hot soup full of freshly chopped garlic and onions for lunch if I’m sick. Although they have antimicrobial and immune-boosting properties, there is very limited scientific proof of whether garlic and onions actually help you fight off a cold. Nonetheless, they’re definitely worth taking, just make sure not to eat them at night (garlic-burps aren’t fun when you’re trying to fall asleep).
- Saline nasal spray: Using a nasal spray with only salt-water in it will help keep your nose cleaner by loosening the mucus up. It will also keep your nose moist, while having a very mild antibacterial effect (at least the hypertonic ones that have a higher concentration of salt than your body does).
- Echinacea: There is some scientific evidence suggesting that using echinacea may slightly reduce the symptoms and the duration of your cold or flu. While this isn’t definitive evidence by any means, I still take echinacea when I’m sick, since there seems to be a slight benefit of doing so.
- Water: Last, but certainly not least: water. When you have a cold, you’ll be sweating more than usual. If you want your body to function properly – and be able to fight the infection with full power – you have to stay hydrated! Drink a glass of water regularly, and drink more than you would if you were healthy!
3. Quality sleep
Your natural cortisol levels drop at night – this is crucial to help you drift off to a deep sleep. While this is good for many reasons – increased relaxation, increased testosterone-levels, improved muscle-recovery, better cognitive function – it also means that you will be more susceptible to pain and discomfort, and experience the symptoms of your illness more dramatically. This is the main reason why you feel like you’re getting worse as the time for bed gets closer.
Still, having at least 7-9 hours of quality sleep is key if you want to get better fast, since that’s when your body does most of the recovering and healing. So – even though I’m not a fan of taking medication of any kind – I do anything I can at night to suppress my symptoms and ensure a good night’s sleep.
- Ibuprofen: One of the most widely-available over-the-counter pain-relievers. I use it only before bed to ease the pain I feel in my throat so I can get to sleep faster – and stay asleep longer. Don’t use it for too long though, because long-term use can mess with your gains at the gym!
- Nasal spray: It’s almost impossible to fall asleep with a runny or blocked nose. For this reason, I use a nasal spray (I try to look for one with oxymetazoline-HCL or xylometazoline-HCL as the main ingredient) right before bed-time. It’s important not to use a nasal spray for over a few days, as a nasal-spray dependency is a real thing – I’ve found this out the hard way!
- Bromhexine-HCL: If I have mucus in my respiratory tract, I take a dose of bromhexine-HCL before I fall asleep – otherwise I don’t use it, which is why I rarely use this medication. This helps clear the mucus up, so I can get a decent amount of uninterrupted sleep.
- Warm mist humidifier: All of us know the feeling of waking up with a dry throat and a dry nose. The real problem is that whenever I have a cold, my throat and nose are already dry to begin with, making breathing an uncomfortable experience – especially when trying to fall asleep. Having a high-quality warm mist humidifier like this one can solve this problem by moistening the air with warm water vapor. I can also add specific essential oils in the special aroma-box to help ease my cold even more.
- Socks+scarf: Now, I’m not saying that wearing socks and a scarf while sleeping will help me get a better night’s rest. But I want to make sure that even if I kick my blanket off of myself during the night, my throat is still kept warm, and my bodyheat doesn’t escape through my feet (yes, this is a thing). By wearing socks and a scarf while sleeping in addition to my regular sleeping clothes, I basically ensure that my body stays warm and I don’t get even sicker at night, but recover instead.
4. Don’t be stupid
Finally, I have to add that if you want to recover as fast as possible, you shouldn’t be stupid. Don’t eat ice-cream or have cold drinks, do yourself a favor and dress up whenever you have to go outside, and turn the AC off in your home or office! Avoid drinking alcohol, smoking, or doing anything else that might negatively impact your healing process (most of these things you shouldn’t be doing anyway), and take good care of your body in general!
Also, if you want to get the most out of these remedies, you should start focusing on your recovery and healing-process as soon as you experience the very first symptoms – whether that’s a sore throat, a runny nose, or just a feeling you always get before getting sick.
This time, I cured my cold in 3 days – sometimes it takes a little less, sometimes a little longer, but so far, it has always worked. Hopefully these remedies will also help you get back on your feet – and back to the gym! If you found this post to be helpful, make sure to drop it a like! Also, if you’re looking for ways to improve your life, or just want to read more of my articles, make sure to follow Vikingfinity! I write new posts every Tuesday and every Friday, and you don’t want to miss them!
*Disclaimer: All the information on this web site is just my opinion and experience, shared for information-purposes only. This information does not constitute medical advice and it should not be relied upon as such. I do not take any responsibility for your health, treatment, medical condition, decisions or actions. I also don’t recommend any particular treatment and in all cases I recommend that you consult your physician for medical advice immediately.