Fitness Friday: If I’m Working Out and Eating Healthy, Why am I Getting Sick?

Three years ago I hit my New Years Resolutions running – I lost nearly 50 pounds in 4 months with eating healthy and exercising. In that 4 months I had two sinus infections, a cold, and then a virus that kept me with my head in the toilet for two days. After I had the virus in which I swore I was never eating a certain food again (you know how that goes) I stopped my diet. There is something about getting sick that makes me want a burger verses a salad, and has me reaching for a Coke.

Fast forward to January 2014 when I decided again I was going to make that change – and lose the 50 pounds I gained back from my original weight loss (funny how that happens when you aren’t doing anything to prevent it). I’m down 11 pounds going into February and BAM! a cold hits me hard, keeping me from the gym, and really keeping me from eating anything at all. A week later BAM! again, I am hit with a virus that my girl’s brought home from school. What the heck? I hadn’t been this sick in… Ohhh….

It had literally been THREE years since I had gotten a virus (even though my kids had brought some pretty nasty stuff home in that time period), and even 3 years since I had a cold! What was the correlation between  it all?? I was trying to lose weight and get healthy.

Say what??

So I started to do what I always do anytime I’m curious and need to know something – I started to google it. I was amazed at how many people were experiencing the same thing I was! 

“Everytime I start exercising again, I get sick. Like I get a cold or something. This didn’t happen when I was younger but in the last 5 years it always seems to happen. Any thoughts on why this happens? I can’t get started properly because I exercise two or three times, I get a cold and have to stop for a week or so and then have to start over, get sick again…”

“In the past year, I’ve tried to start the P90X exercise program four times. And, each time I try to start it, I get sick within a week of starting.”

“It seems like everytime I have an intense weight workout, I usually end up sick afterwards (swollen glands, no energy, runny nose)”

“I started a workout routine a year ago and about a week or two into it came down with a severe head and chest cold which really threw me off my routine and lasted for several weeks. I recently started doing Power90 and the same thing is happening. I started the workout routine about a week and a half ago and I’m getting sick.”

These are just a few of the comments and concerns I found on the first few pages of people looking for answers. Out of like seriously hundreds of pages on a Google search. Why have I not heard about this? Isn’t this something our doctor’s should warn us about? What do you do to prevent getting sick when you are trying to live a healthier lifestyle?

The more I looked into it, the more I realized it’s not just one but multiple things you could be doing that will cause you to get sick, be more susceptible to illnesses and cause you to feel run down.Research is uncovering a link between moderate, regular exercise and a strong immune system. However, there is also evidence that too much intense exercise can reduce immunity and may even make you sick. Intense exercise along with other contributing factors such as: stress, poor nutrition (not enough calories, or the wrong type) , fatigue and lack of sleep, cigarette smoke (shame on you, you need to quit! and I’m talking to my sister and husband here too!) , older age, and over training.

Yikes.

I am guilty of nearly every single one of those contributing factors! When I start working out I have a tendency to go at it full force instead of slowly allowing my body to adjust to the changes. I stress a lot anyway but a lot more when I’m working out – I am always worried I won’t have time or that I’ll fall off the wagon again. That along with other daily stresses just make life rough. Poor nutrition?? Though I usually stay within my calorie goal, sometimes I am under, and I am completely guilty of eating the wrong type of calories. I’d take one big bad meal and not eat the rest of the day instead of eating healthy wholesome meals throughout the day… and sleep? What is that? Stay up late, get up early, that has been my life for a long time and it gets even worse when I am trying to make time for myself. We all know I’m not a spring chicken anymore either – sometimes when I start working out I feel like my 17/18 yr old self that was out playing softball and on the basketball court all year long.. and I push myself like it too. So obviously I need to make some major changes to keep myself from getting sick again. 

So let’s break it down:

  • Stop Stressin’ – We have all heard stress is a contributing factor to a gazillion things. So just stop. Take a deep breathe, relax, enjoy life a little. Work is always going to be there. Shut off your phone, your computer, enjoy some sunshine, play a game with your kids, take a walk with your husband/wife. 
  • Eat Right – I am not saying to ban pizza, burgers and chocolate forever. But make it special occasions – eat more fruits, veggies, less processed stuff. Plan a night out at that great pizza place for next weekend and eat smart and look forward to a ‘cheat’ meal. Don’t over eat on calories, and even worse, don’t under eat either! I had a friend who did this and it wasn’t good for her health -or her looks! Her hair got thin, and didn’t look healthy, her eyes sunk in, and her face was pale and sickly from not eating enough. Find your balance.
  • Get Your Sleep On- like stress, sleep can effect your health in many ways, including colds and viruses. Everyone is different as far as the amount of sleep they need each night (I need a good 8 to feel refreshed) but the amount of sleep vs the quality can also be a factor. If you go to bed and your not tired, you are not going to sleep well. Take a brisk walk, jog in place, or clean up the house to burn a bit of energy before you lay down. Also make sure to go to bed when you’re tired and don’t continue to try to ‘get things done’ (I am very guilty of this). You will feel much better getting up early to finish a project feeling refreshed then finishing it sloppy the night before.
  • Stop Smoking! – Like Nike says, JUST DO IT! There are many ways to quit, from gum to hypnosis but make the decision that you WILL be healthier – cutting out all the bad habits that have a negative impact on your health.
  • Be Nice to the Elderly – So you might not be 80, but you are not the youngin’ you used to be. Your bones and muscles change especially in women as they age, so take this into account and listen to your body. you may need more sleep (or less) then you did when you were younger, and your body may need more vitamins/minerals if it’s lacking.  Stretch before you jump on the treadmill or even the weight machines. Don’t making it a running start, but slow and steady. ..after all, that wins the race!
  •  Don’t Push Yourself TOO far – When you are training it’s easy to push yourself so hard that you hurt yourself – sometimes without even knowing it. Talk to a fitness or medical professional regarding where you should start, and how fast you should accelerate your work outs. Experts say you should incorporate low intensity and high intensity work outs into your weekly work out routine. Both have benefits when it comes to weight loss, and when combined create the most effective weight-loss routine.

I hope these tips help, and maybe prevent others from making the same mistakes I have. 

Have you ever noticed that you get sick more often when you work out?

 

 

**Please note this is not medical advice, if you are sick or continue with symptoms after working out, please consult your Doctor. In fact, you should consult your Doctor before starting any exercise regimen. 

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50 Responses to Fitness Friday: If I’m Working Out and Eating Healthy, Why am I Getting Sick?

  1. Pingback: Fitness Friday: If I'm Working Out and Eating Healthy, Why am I … | Fast Ways to Lose Thigh Fat

  2. It may be the toxins you are flushing out of your body. Keep up the great work!

  3. theclubmomamanda says:

    WOW… yes I have noticed this too!!

  4. Katrina says:

    Yep!

    Not just physically, but it’s almost like I finally decide to try to get healthier and BAM! The devil is in my way. And I’d say stress is my number 1 problem, leading to most of the rest (no smoking, but otherwise).

    Definitely things to consider!

  5. Yeah..I like the part about being nice to us old people or you will get sick!

  6. The concern you got from google search is very alike to my own. It’s like reading from my own journal. I usually get allergic rhinitis at least once a month. I take medicines that can cause me to feel drowsy and immobile which totally disrupts my exercise routine. Whenever I’m sick I lose weight because I lose appetite and prefer sleeping over eating. From your list of contributing factors, I can’t seem to get enough sleep. People over 17 would require a regular sleep of 7-9 hours. During weekdays I only get to sleep about 4-6 hours a day. Some of us might think catching up sleep in the weekends will make up for the lost hours but it won’t. There’s a saying about life, that there’s plenty of time to sleep when we’re dead so we better live it like there’s no tomorrow. If you live by this rule, then there really is no assurance of your tomorrow. It takes more than that. Your tomorrow will matter on the choice you make today to either live healthily or live recklessly.

  7. brett says:

    guilty here, too. who knew? I had a great groove going then the kids brought strep home. and im weak 3 1/2 weeks after my first round of strep…which came back.

  8. I’ve never noticed that in myself, but it totally makes sense. I actually keep working out when I’m sick if it’s just a cold though.

  9. Shell says:

    I never really thought about it like that. Part of it could be just going to the gym where there are people who could be sick and not cleaning their machines properly, too.

    • Krissyar says:

      I actually had this happen when I was just working out at home as well – my body was working too hard and not able to fight. I have learned to slow down and slowly increase the intensity of my work outs, along with getting enough sleep, etc, and I don’t get sick as often.

  10. This has not happened to me.. yet. I suppose because when I get in a work out mode, it is short lived?

  11. I most definitley get sick more often now that I work out than before I started going to the gym. But I blame it all on the kids ;)

  12. I didn’t get sick more often, but I DID get fatter when I trained for a half marathon. Sure, I gained scale weight, which some people would say, “oh! muscle” but no, pants don’t fit. What the french, toast!

  13. Krystal says:

    I know that when I start working out, I am SO tired the next day. It’s like I can’t wake up! I need to get into a healthy habit of walking and working out.

  14. That’s crazy but it does make sense. When something major changes (eating or exercise) with your body that it’s not used to, I would think it’s possible that it becomes susceptible to getting sick. Great advice here!!!

  15. I started working out more regularly this winter, and sure enough, I got sick.

  16. Very informative post and something to really think about.

  17. sippycupmom says:

    These are great tips and you’re completely right. When I was eating right and working out, I got sick bad which then made me not want to work out and eat right, ha!

  18. Chelsea says:

    I’ve never noticed that, probably because I never work out LOL. Shame on me. I rarely get sick, probably about once a year and compared to other people I count my lucky stars for that!!

  19. Kim says:

    This time of year it is tricky to know whether it is a cold or a seasonal allergy – Hope you feel better!

  20. Toni says:

    I do notice that when I start working out I tend to get sick. Same thing happened to my son when he started weight lifting LOL

  21. I am guilty of not getting enough sleep. I really need to improve that. PLUS, I have a really bad cold right now – probably because of the lack of sleep!

  22. These are all great tips. Sometimes I actually feel worse after I start working out again. I’m sore and exhausted. It takes some time for me to get into work out shape again.

  23. Great reminder for those starting an exercise plan to work your body and not against. Thanks!!

  24. Jaime says:

    This happens to me at least once or twice a year (especially during the winter months.) It’s so important to get enough sleep – something I often forget.

  25. Rachael says:

    I think that people may think they are eating healthy but are still lacking vital nutrients. Or they are not eating enough to sustain the added physical activity. Since I started drinking Shakeology with my working out two years ago, I have only had two colds. Before that, I was sick every two months, literally.

  26. Kecia says:

    I haven’t really thought there was a correlation between working out/eating healthy and getting sick. I feel like my attempts at being healthier have been shot down lately though – I lost 15 pounds in late 2012, then had to have gallbladder surgery that November. I then started back in early 2013 and lost about 10 more, only to get pregnant in April 2013! Hopefully this time around, it won’t be halted by something!!

  27. Jessica says:

    YES! I have always wondered that too. I did learn that last year I kept getting sick because I was actually working out too much. I wasn’t giving my body enough time to rest and heal between work outs.

  28. While eating right and getting adequately time to exercise are both very important for health and wellness, these are not the only things that contribute to better level of fitness. Actually, there are other things that can affect your health such as stress, lack of sleep, pollution, emotional problems, and many others. In fact, I heard of a popular CEO from India who died suddenly of heart attack. He is actually a fitness geek, but the problem is that he only sleeps four hours a day. So eventually, his body gave up on him.

  29. Zoe B says:

    Don’t stop working out! Often when we start to get healthy our bodies can automatically detox…so this can see us getting sick. BUT the sickness is a GOOD thing as it is almost like your body is cleaning its-self out! Once you get better, you will be healthier than ever :)

  30. Yes, sleep and relaxation is key! Working out doesn’t seem to make me sick, but if I don’t get enough sleep or if I let my anxiety take over, the viruses kick in. So sorry sickness is getting in the way of you trying to be healthy.

  31. These are great tips! Intense exercise can definitely wear down your immune system. After an intense cycle of marathon training, I feel very run down for a couple of weeks. One of my training partners actually gets a cold after almost every marathon.

  32. These are great tips. I find that now that I work out a lot more and more intense I worry that working out is tiring out my body.

  33. Tiffany Cruz says:

    It’s so hard for me to get enough sleep. I tend to stay up late catching up on TV or trying to work when the house in quiet and I can concentrate. Sounds like I need a bedtime just like the kids. Great tips here, thanks for sharing them.

  34. I agree on not pushing yourself too far. If I do this, I tend to give up easier.

  35. Great tips! I too go at it full force but I don’t allow myself time to adjust to the routine. I will take it easy and be kind to myself.

  36. Ashley M says:

    I tend to do a combination of these things that make me sick as well. Especially not getting enough sleep and pushing too hard too soon.

  37. I’ve noticed the same thing, when I’m sick I always reach for the fattening food opposed to the healthier. I need to get better about that!

  38. Nice points! I tell people all the time that stress just adds to problems. People think it’s all physical, but there’s definitely a mental aspect.

  39. Lisa says:

    I get sick more for sure when I am stressed. I don’t work out enough, so maybe it would actually reduce my stress and make me less sick? haha ;)

  40. I had no idea! I’ve not lost weight and need to though! Glad to know moderate is the way to go.

  41. Rosey says:

    I work out even if I’m sick, if it’s not too bad. I have noticed my nose runs a lot if I’m running though. I noticed it before, but didn’t notice-notice until I read your post. :)

  42. Yep! Too much too soon or too much in general can have a reverse effect. I’m glad you brought this up as we all need to be mindful with our routines.

  43. This happens to me every time too! I thought I was the only one!!

  44. Great tips and I’ve often found myself in this situation with working out as well. Thanks for breaking it down.

  45. Felicia says:

    I have felt the same way! I think for me the top thing is the lack of sleep I am getting.

  46. A Mom's Take says:

    I had never heard of this or really stopped to notice. That’s so strange! Thanks for your tips I hate getting sick.

  47. I am not sure that I have noticed. I think I feel better!

  48. Debbie says:

    Definitely an important issue that is somehow hidden away, because I keep feeling I can’t be the only one. But, I think weight loss plays a factor. If I drop below a certain number – not a skinny number, by any means – I start getting a sore throat, cold, etc. If I’m heavier, I’m fine – better energy, never sick. But, who wants to be even 8 pounds heavier than 135 lbs. at 5 feet? But, I can’t find any discussions about this. I’m sure it’s not everyone – plenty of women can get really thin and feel great. But, as I said, I can’t be the only one with this “issue.” Thanks, and keep talking about this!

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