Summer 2022- Exercise, nutrition, and C*vi!D
It’s July 2022 here in Michigan. I followed all the rules for 2 years, and after 3 vaccinations and reduced rates in my area, I let my guard down. I’m teaching in person for the first time since February of 2020, and we honestly haven’t worn masks outside of the doctor’s office in months.
Fortunately, I’d been able to avoid getting sick for a long time, outside of seasonal allergies and what my kids have brought home from school. Then I started getting a sore throat on Thursday morning, and didn’t think anything of it. I woke up with a mild head cold on Saturday morning, and as I was planning to carpool to a 5k, I took a rapid at-home test just to be safe.
Welp. No race for me.
I’m fine, it was mostly just a head cold.
Scope of practice is super important for me as a personal trainer who works with a high risk population, so I do need to stress that I am not a doctor, nor an epidemiologist. If you test positive you should reach out to your own physician and follow CDC and your local guidelines, etc. Here are my basic recommendations from my knowledge from over a decade of experience training and my education from multiple certifying bodies in group fitness, personal training, and nutrition. I am sharing my personal experience and research, please use your own judgment as everyone will have a different experience with this particular virus.
What I took/ what was recommended by my local Pharmacist:
Mucinex, Sudafed, Ibuprofen, EmergenC
On day 4 I had a ton of congestion (again, it started as a sore throat and progressed into a headcold), so I took sudafed from the recommendation from my provider. You can combine these drugs together, so I basically ate the medicine cabinet every four hours. I wouldn’t recommend this, I felt extremely “drugged out” and it made the brain fog MUCH worse.
I wasn’t hungry but I kept munching on raw cashews, dried apricots, kept a steady fluids with watered down OJ, tea with honey, and probiotic juices. In my studies on plant-based nutrition with this particular virus, Vitamin A, C, D, E, Zinc, Potassium, and Probiotics can help accelerate the healing process. I had handfuls of cashews, almonds, eggs with spinach, fruit smoothies, and fish. I didn’t lose my sense of taste and smell, but I developed C* tongue (a burning sensation in my mouth and everything tasted metallic), which was unpleasant. I read that C*vid tongue is a result of inflammation and I did notice my symptoms lessened with Ibuprofen and it only lasted a couple of days.
Sources of zinc - Pumpkin seeds, cashews, oysters, fish, beef, yogurt, beans.
(Many cereals and breads in the US are fortified, and you can certainly take a supplement.)
Sources of Vitamin A- Leafy greens, tomatoes, orange and yellow vegetables (summer squash, peppers, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots), liver, yellow fruits like cantaloupe and mango, eggs.
Sources of Vitamin C- Citrus fruit, strawberries, broccoli, brussel sprouts, peppers
Sources of Vitamin D- Sunshine! Seriously, get outside for 20 minutes.
Sources of Vitamin E- Plant-based oils like avocado and seed oil, peanut butter, mango, beet greens, asparagus, and red peppers
Sources of potassium- Leafy greens, beans, lentils, bananas, broccoli, coconut water, salmon, yogurt, avocado, potatoes, dried fruits.
Probiotic sources- Fermented foods like yogurt, some cheeses, kefir, kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut. After getting pregnant I can barely stand the smell of most of these so I get probiotic juices or hide yogurt in my smoothies… like I do with my toddlers.
Now… Here was the worst part… isolating around littles.
Fortunately, my kids were able to attend summer camp as long as they remained negative and didn’t develop any symptoms. So with that information, we decided to keep me far away from the kids. I slept in our spare bedroom and wore a mask (these are my favorite for adults and my favorite for kids) around them, kept windows open, and staggered our meal times so they would eat before I did.
The best thing I can recommend is to have a couple of toys or projects that your kids can complete without you. I saved several messier projects for outside play over the winter and was able to sit distanced from the kiddos. Some other favorites are painting the outdoor toys with washable paint, then cleaning them with soap, “science” projects like baking soda/ vinegar and color mixing, then of course any combo of chalk/ bubbles/ sprinkler time. I did let them watch an entire movie while I napped more than once, and I don’t feel bad about it.
Overall, we tried to tire out our kids during the day and put them to bed at night earlier so we could wrap up the evenings and get to sleep earlier. (I feel like “tire them out” is a daily goal with having toddlers in general.) At the end of every day I’d wipe down door handles, light switches, and “high touch” areas with disinfectant.
What about the Gains?
As far as exercise, the general rule is it’s okay to exercise if it’s in your head- meaning a head cold or cough. Many of my clients and myself have reported that mild to moderate exercise with a head cold has helped alleviate symptoms and increase energy levels. However, if you start experiencing anything “below the neck”, like a fever, body aches, or chills, you need to prioritize rest over exercise.
I haven’t seen any new research with these newer variants, but as an abundance of caution, and as I truly wasn’t feeling up for it, I chose not to exercise. When I was feeling recovered after a couple days I did beginner Yoga and took walks about 10-20 minutes in length. I’m about a week out of quarantine and I’m still feeling the fatigue. One of my clients who recently tested positive (Summer 2022), shared that even the smallest tasks would wipe her out. With this information, I would recommend starting back slow and short. Drop your weights to about 50-60% of what you were lifting before, reduce your resistance on your cardio, and start with 10-20 minutes of exercise and see how you feel after a couple of hours. You really don’t want to overdo it and regret it. Again, everyone will have a different experience with this virus, and your physician might have a different opinion here, but I would recommend starting back extremely slowly and building back from there. Like I regress the programs of my third trimester clients, you can reduce the overall load of your workouts by increasing rest intervals, minimizing complexity, shortening the overall duration, and scaling back the number of reps or sets.
Studies on muscle and cardiovascular retention have demonstrated that you will lose muscle after 3 weeks “off”, whereas cardiovascular gains will reduce after 3 months. However, there’s newer studies that indicate cardiovascular loss is closer to 3-4 weeks in endurance athletes. So if you are an athlete that gets Covid while training, expect to experience some deconditioning.
That all being said, I will remind you that “muscle memory” is a thing! So I’m less concerned with losing neuromuscular connections after some time off. If your symptoms are like mine and you’re dealing with a bunch of fatigue, I’d recommend starting at 60-70% of your normal weight and working back up to 85-95%. Exercise is usually great for battling fatigue, once you are feeling healthy, but you might need more rest between workouts.
Overall, setbacks happen, and it’s better to err on the side of caution than to risk worsening fatigue or injury. Getting sick is a bummer, but it doesn’t mean you are doomed. If anything, staying on top of your nutrition and exercise is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical wellbeing. So, please continue to eat lots of healthy foods, get lots of sleep, and exercise when you're feeling well!
Resources and Links:
Recommendations for CVid and Exercise, Muscle Memory:
One of my favorite books I’ve read on plant-based nutrition (yes, I am very biased as I’ve been an ovo/lacto/pesca-terian for almost 30 years) is “Plant Based Sports Nutrition : Expert fueling strategies for training, recovery, and performance”.
If you are a trainer and need some CECs, this course was very helpful:
NASM- “”Guide to Covid-19 Management”
Additional Nutrition Info:
Management- Please contact me directly if you need help with your exercise routine and as I mentioned earlier, only seek medical council from your physician, not the internet.