Written by Calvin Sun
You know the usual symptoms: that tickle in the back of your throat, that first sniffle of the nose, or maybe your joints start to feel a little achy and you suddenly feel tired for no reason. You feel a cold coming on and you have no idea how to stop it. Most of my clients are either busy professionals or competitive athletes, and both groups are composed of high-performers who can’t afford to get sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the typical cold and flu season begins in October and runs as late as May with the peak period for illness occurring between the months of December and March . If you’re a CrossFit competitor, you know the cold season runs concurrent to your off-season training, the CrossFit Open, and the CrossFit Regionals. Getting sick during the season means downtime from training, diminished athletic performance, and possibly compromising your odds for advancing to the next stage of competition.
In today’s article, I’ll share with you my tried and true “anti-cold” protocol that’s been previously only available to my private coaching clients. My clients have reported significantly shortened durations of full-blown colds, and if caught early, they find that their illness stops dead in its tracks within a few hours when utilizing this protocol.
Step 1: Take 10 grams of L-Glutamine
Glutamine plays an essential role in the proliferation of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that plays an important role in the immune system , and research has found that depleted glutamine levels appear to have a correlation with diminished immune function . As soon as you notice the first symptoms of a cold, take 10 grams of glutamine mixed in water every hour for the first 5 hours. If you need a product suggestion, try Thorne L-Glutamine or NOW Foods L-Glutamine.
Step 2: Take A Probiotic Supplement
Research has found that taking probiotics can help prevent upper respiratory tract infections, reduce frequency of illnesses, as well as reduce the duration of a cold . I would suggest taking probiotics daily throughout the cold season and doubling your dose at the first sign of a possible cold. If you don’t take probiotics regularly, take a probiotic supplement immediately at the onset and twice daily until your cold goes away. I recommend Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotic or Thorne Research FloraSport 20B.
Step 3: Use a Sinus Rinse
The common cold virus is often transmitted by air and starts by infecting nasal cells. Using a saline-based sinus rinse can help flush out any unwelcome guests from your sinuses. In addition, due its osmotic effects, the salt water helps create an inhospitable environment for most bacteria and viruses that might consider taking up residence inside your nasal passages. Rinse your nose using a saline-based sinus rinse after taking your supplements and repeat as needed throughout the day (I use the NeilMed Sinus Rinse Kit).
Step 4: Gargle with Salt Water
A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that gargling water can help reduce incidences of upper respiratory tract infections . Mix about 1 teaspoon of salt in 4 ounces of warm water and gargle for a full 30 seconds at least 3 times per day. Make sure you spit out the salt water instead of swallowing.
Step 5: Breathe and Relax
The mind-body connection is undeniable and multiple studies have found that meditation and other breath-based exercises can help reduce stress and positively influence the immune system [6,7]. After performing the above steps, take 20 to 30 minutes to unplug and relax. If you want to try meditation, you can use an app like Calm or Headspace to get started. Alternatively, you can practice breathing exercises like the “Wim Hof Method” or pranayama breathing. The point is not to stress or worry if you feel the onset of a cold and maintain a positive attitude.
The typical cold lasts 7 to 10 days and for most people that’s about 7 to 10 days too long. This protocol has helped my clients stop colds in record time and ensure they don’t have to miss training or work due to illness. Give it a shot next time you feel that tickle in the back of your throat.
If you are interested in learning our other supplement-based protocols for post-workout nutrition, pre-workout, and recovery, our newest book, “Post-Workout Supplementation: An Evidence-Based Guide To Enhance Performance and Optimize Recovery” is available for sale on our website.
1. “The Flu Season.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 July 2016. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.
2. Gleeson, M. Dosing and Efficacy of Glutamine Supplementation in Human Exercise and Sport Training. J. Nutr. October 2008, vol. 138 no. 10 2045S-2049S.
3. Soeters PB, Grecu I. Have we enough glutamine and how does it work? A clinician’s view. Ann Nutr Metab. 2012;60(1):17-26. doi: 10.1159/000334880. Epub 2011 Dec 30.
4. Hao Q, Dong BR, Wu T. Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Feb 3;(2):CD006895. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006895.pub3.
5. Satomura K et al. Prevention of upper respiratory tract infections by gargling: a randomized trial. Am J Prev Med. 2005 Nov;29(4):302-7.
6. Kox M, van Eijk LT, Zwaag J, et al. Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2014;111(20):7379-7384. doi:10.1073/pnas.1322174111.
7. E E Solberg, R Halvorsen, J Sundgot-Borgen, F Ingjer, A Holen. Meditation: a modulator of the immune response to physical stress? A brief report. Br J Sports Med 1995;29:255-257 doi:10.1136/bjsm.29.4.255