You hear it time and time again: what is the key to success in competitive sports? More often than not, it comes down to consistent training. This means stringing together weeks, months, and even years of consecutive workouts without extended breaks due to illness or injury.

However, at the highest level, where training loads are pushed to very high amounts, athletes often live on the edge between the right amount of training and too much. In their attempt to achieve the greatest possible training stimulus and resulting fitness levels, they risk overstepping this boundary. When athletes do overstep, overtraining, injury, or illness can occur, thus affecting the consistency of their training.

Mitigating risks of illness is an important consideration for athletes striving to achieve such consistency in training. Unfortunately, high-level athletes are at a greater risk of illness, particularly upper respiratory tract infections, compared to more recreational exercisers. Athletes often face higher exposure to pathogenic microorganisms due to several factors: increased rate and depth of breathing during exercise (raising lung exposure to airborne pathogens), contact with large crowds, and frequent foreign travel. Additionally, some reported sore throats may be due to non-infectious airway inflammation caused by allergies, inhalation of pollutants, or cold dry air rather than infectious agents. Furthermore, post-exercise immune function depression is most pronounced when the exercise is continuous, prolonged (over 90 minutes), and at moderate to high intensity (55-75% of aerobic capacity) (Gleeson et al. 2013). 

As such, interventions that can enhance immunity are of significant interest to high-performance athletes, as they allow for fewer training days lost to illness, thereby enabling more consistent training. Effective dosing of appropriate micronutrition, such as Vitamin C, Zinc and Vitamin D, are proven ways to boost athlete immunity and reduce the risk of illness. Let's discuss each of these critical micronutrients in turn and understand why they are essential for athletes aiming to enhance their immunity, ward off illness and keep training consistent.