Over the past couple of days, I have felt under the weather. I used to feel sick all the time so the flu-light symptoms I have felt over the past few days weren’t too alarming, but something was nagging me. As I struggled to get my errands done and do my normal daily activities there was a thought getting cozy in the back of my mind. Then when I slowed down and just decided to rest it hit me! This wasn’t a normal cold or flu. Or maybe, rather, it was. I had felt this exact way before. In fact, I had felt this exact way several times before. This particular kind of flu-ish symptom seemed to hit me after I was done exercising.
The only problem was before I had always assumed it was because I often worked out at a gym or because I didn’t eat enough protein. It also could be that exercise, at least initially, lowers you immune systems response and I was a nanny and kids just carry germs with them everywhere. However, when I examined the situation this time, I hadn’t left the house and while Scott had been sick this was nothing like his cold at all. I also hadn’t worked out in a crowded area or with any shared equipment. The only difference is this time I worked out pretty intensely for almost an hour.
So armed with my new revelations I went to my doctor to see if this could be a real thing. Could exercise be making sick? As a decently active person, this actually scared me a bit. Would this mean I would have to scale back my activities? Anyone with an auto-immune disorder will tell you that it’s a terrifying place to be where you feel as though your life may be even more limited than it already is. When my doctor explained it to me I can’t explain the wave of relief that washed over me.
He told me it was likely due to a lack of electrolytes. So we’ve all heard about electrolytes, but do you know what they do? Electrolytes are part of the fluid of our body that carries electrical energy to where it is needed. See your muscles, including your heart rely on electrical energy to be able to perform their jobs. Electricity is also responsible for transmitting your nerve impulses. So just like sort of important stuff. Sodium, potassium, and calcium are all important to keeping you electrolyte balance on point.
Well if you’ve seen my insta, you know that I strive to keep all of those in my diet every day. Well, at least I thought I did. My doctor brought up that when you eat a whole food plant based diet you miss out on salt (aka sodium). Processed foods typically are loaded with salt but when all you’re eating is avocados and nuts (I definitely eat more than that ha) there is way less opportunity to intake salt. This creates a perfect storm for achy sickness the day after working out intensely.
“Fluid retention” is one of those words that we’ve been taught is negative. Don’t eat too much salt or you’ll retain fluid. While retaining too much fluid isn’t good the flipside is just as bad. The thing is that fluid retention is important for electrolytes to be able to take that electrical energy where it needs to go. I was drinking lots of water, but the lack of salt didn’t allow me to hold on to any of it (aka retain it). It was basically just running through me.
The second thing is salt is important to form the electrolytes themselves. So salt plays a huge role on both sides of the card when it comes to electrolyte forming. It is definitely a balance, but for me, it became apparent that I needed more salt. I have always thought as salt as an evil bad thing so it’s definitely a hard transition, but my doctor suggested I try to just liberally salt my food around my longer or more intense workouts especially if they will be well over a half an hour. He also said that including an electrolyte drink like Nuun to help get the process started.
SALT your food before and after an intense workout
Drink and electrolyte packed drink (make sure the sugar isn’t too high)
So salting and electrolyte drinking it is. I haven’t had this information long, but it makes absolute sense to me. I am going to try it out the next time Scott and I want to pretend we’re playing in the US Open (oh yeah this was started by a heated tennis match between me and the hubby). Definitely, try it out if you feel like you’re super drained after a long workout. You may not be as “drained” as you think you are!