New research has found that consuming carbohydrates during, or immediately after, an intense exercise can help the immune system recover.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Queensland University of Technology, was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Carbohydrates, Helpful Sessions Of Intense Exercise

According to one of the lead authors of the research, Dr. Jonathan Peake, carbohydrates may be a very effective means of fast recovery for people who exercise intensely because of the property that maintains blood sugar levels.

Exercise can affect the number of immune cells in the blood, either by increasing or decreasing them. Previous research failed to prove that regular exercising without giving the immune system time to restore to its full capacities weakens the immune system. Peake, however, believes that sometimes white blood cells tend to move to other parts of the body and that they are not destroyed.

Intense exercise does represent a source of body stress, being accountable for a number of changes in the body. Under these circumstances, our immune system does become weaker and more vulnerable.

"Current knowledge about changes in immune function during recovery from exercise is derived from assessment at the cell population level of isolated cells ex vivo or in blood. This assessment can be biased by large changes in the distribution of immune cells between blood and peripheral tissues during and after exercise," noted the study.

While regular moderate exercise improves our immune system and can be effective against ailments, such as the common cold, intense exercise done regularly increases the risks of suffering from upper respiratory illness. This is when consuming carbohydrates may be helpful, as it can improve the immune system.

"Among the various nutritional strategies and physical therapies that athletes use to recover from exercise, carbohydrate supplementation is the most effective for minimizing immune disturbances during exercise recovery. Sleep is an important aspect of recovery," also noted the paper.

According to the study, most of the people need carbs only during or immediately after high-intensity exercising, or in the case of prolonged sessions that last at least 90 minutes.

"Between 30 and 60 grams of carbohydrates every hour during exercise help to support normal immune function. Examples of carbohydrates that could be consumed during exercise include carbohydrate-containing fluids, gels and bars consisting of different carbohydrates such as glucose and fructose," noted Dr. Oliver Neubauer, also the lead author of the research.

Exercise Recommendations

According to data from the CDC, only 49 percent of the population 18 years of age and older meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity, while only 20.9 percent of the same population meets the guidelines for both aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening activities.

The guidelines suggest 150 minutes of aerobic activity of moderate intensity every week, such as brisk walking, and muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days every week, as part of which all major muscle groups should be targeted.

Alternatively, 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic activity (such as jogging) are recommended weekly, along with the muscle-strengthening activities mentioned above.

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