T Nation

What Do You Do to Optimize Immune System?

Hey Thibs,

long time reader here and new member of the forum. Thanks for all your work, it helps tremendously.

I got a bit of a problem here.

Not the topic but just for backround information, I’m doing 2-3 full body sessions per week, they look like this:

Workout A: Squat, Bench (3x5) Rows (3x8)
Workout B: Squat, Press (3x5), Weighted Pull-Ups (4x6)

The thing is, my immunesystem is weak as hell. I was sick with a cold 10 times last winter for 1 week at least ech time.
This winter it started similarly and I’m currently at my 3rd cold.
My skin is often times red and looks inflamed and I have a gastritis that comes as often or more often than the colds. I can’t seem to get rid of it. I have done blood work a few times and my red blood cell count is too low as well as hemoglobin and other parameters.
Doctors don’t really find something, cause the symptoms are unspecific.

I don’t think I’m overtraining or that I have too much stress, because I’m sick often so I have to take a week off nearly every other week.

Since you had some health problems yourself, what do you do for optimal immune function? I know you once said you drink 20g of Na2CO3 three times daily?

I had kidney issues, not an illness per say. My immune system is normally pretty solid.

I do take sodium bicarbonate (12g 2-3 times a day) because it can help with kidneys but it could also help with the immune system.

Vitamine D can help, especially in the winter months and high doses of glutamine (20g 3-4 times a day) when you feel something coming can help too.

Often times a weak immune system comes from low serotonin levels, so adressing that would likely help.

What’s your nutrition like?

Nutrition is pretty clean (lot of fruits, some veggies, meat once a day, greek yogurt, eggs…) and I’m currently bulking, so I’m eating enough.

Thanks CT!

I’m gonna do some research on the serotonin thing. How would one correct it?
I’m not an unhappy person and I should be a Type 1 on your Neurotyping scale.

How would one train if heavy workouts just wreck me, cause I got the feeling that everytime it’s really strenuous, I am subsceptible to a cold at least for a day and I’m feeling extremely sluggish?
I think I need at least 2 heavy squat sessions a week to progress but it doesn’t seem to help me health wise.
If you got some tips on fighting inflammation that would be really helpful. (I think you’re advocating curcumin?)

Have a nice day everybody.

Do you drink the baking soda or take capsules? 12 g is around 1 tablespoon!

I drink about 1 teaspoon per day and use biotest flavoring because it tastes so nasty by itself. I can’t imagine drinking 1 tablespoon…

I mix 12g in a glass of water and sugar-free/zero calories lemonade mix. I personally don’t mind the taste at all.

I’ll have to try that. Thanks for the tip. Have you ever tried to drink it plain with just water? That’s when the horrible taste is most evident.

At first, yes… not that pleasant

Get enough sleep
Take cold showers
Vitamin D, Zinc, Magnesium
Chop up raw garlic and swallow it like a pill
Eat probiotic foods
To aerobic exercise using Maffatone Method(180 minus your age is the target heart rate)

Sleep would be the only thing o could optimize. I get 7.5 hours a day on average but could be more some days.
I take Vit D, Mg, Zinc, vitamin C.
I personally think it’s a cortisol problem, I think I have extremely high levels throughout the day most days.
Don’t know how I’d correct it, because I thrive in stress phases. The problem is the cumulation of work, gym, studies, social events.
Maybe I need to relax more but since I’m in my twenties I think i should be able to handle more stress.
Other guys from my gym have equally as many things to do but are able to recover from 6 days training per week. I barely manage 3 and I’m sick constantly. Cant do 2 days a week cause that would be two monster workouts. I did that but got tired of feeling like shit for at least two days afterwards because of the CNS fatigue.

one thing is certain, your body is not adapted to it.

3 options:

  • Keep doing the current training for some more time. (maybe your body can adapt)

  • there are times when it becomes necessary to “regress” in order to “advance”. (slightly decrease the training volume until you feel comfortable).
    Then increase / build the intensity slowly.

  • or … go heavier / intense in your current workout.

    (It seems strange, but for a period in the past I had a difficulty in deadlift. I could not add load and also reps.
    So I added about 40 lbs to the deadlift. The shock was great, it made me progress again.)

It was the only time I went through that.

It didn’t adapt to it over more than a year. I changed it after that because I had more time. More volume or exercises caused regression on all lifts.
Currently I’m doing a linear progression again but can’t stay healthy. I’m really asking myself how a lean, relatively muscular guy in his 20s can get sick from every little virus that crosses his path.
Thanks for the help.
Do You think more reps per set would be less stressful for the immune system and cns?
I don’t like going over 5 reps. I’m a type 1. But if it helps me staying healthy and being able to train I’ll do it.
I read on t-nation a few years ago that an 8 RM is not less stressful than a 5 RM because that body is equally as fatigued at the last rep. Think there’s truth to that?

Low reps are more stressful for the CNS, muscles, bone structure … for your whole body.

did not adapt for 1 year? hmmm

If you added more weight to the exercises then you had a progress.

for me to have an idea, what load is applied in your exercises?

I doubt it’s cortisol. Cortisol would have a positive impact on your immune system unless you are under constant stress.

I did make progress. I did adpat you’re right. What I meant was: After doing this kind of training the fatigue didn’t get better. I was completely wasted for at least two days afterwards. I could go in there and do it again on day 3 or 4, maybe a bit stronger but it was too much.
Since two times per muscle is relatively good, I trained Squats, romanian DLs, Press and Pull Ups on one day (+2 assistance exercises) and did DLs, Front Squats, Bench and Rows on the other. The big three + Press were something from a 5RM to a 5x5 scheme.The assistance was 3/4x8 Reps. So load was over 85% for 2 Exercises and then at 70-75 for the rest.

Now I’m doing what I said in my opening post.

Cortisol is one of the most effective immune system suppressants in the body. It is given to patients after transplantation (prednisone).
I think I have high cortisol levels throughout the day, sometimes at night after hard workouts (can’t sleep or wake up at night). I tried to correct it, but I don’t have the ability to limit what I have to do besides the gym.
But it seems some people can better cope with stress.
Maybe I’ll take higher Vitamin C doses and try doing other things that are proven to lower cortisol, like meditation 5 mins per day, or something.

Do you train heavy in the 2 workouts ?

go to failure?

I rarely fail on the big lifts. If i sense I won’t get the rep, i rack it. With squats I’ll push through and get all reps. Bench, I’ll rack because failing is not something that helps me get more reps the next week or more weight, it just helps me fail more often.
But if say I’m training mostly at a 9-9,5 RPE. I get that last rep barely most of the time. But I get it if I ate enough and slept.

Since during winter I’m basically having every other week off with a cold, I’m not really progressing though. Oftentimes just maintaining or only slightly improving like 5 pounds in two months.

do not fail once again in the great surveys.

stop 2 rep before failure