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I've been maintaining a 500-1000 calorie deficit for a while but I've recently caught a cold. I naturally feel like crap and want to recover ASAP. I'm wondering if suspending the diet will help me recover faster.

Is there any evidence that being on a diet can make it harder to recover from a cold?

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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Basic General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS Theory) from Hans Selye tells us that as our body is stressed in some way, it adapts to handle that stress. The basic principle works for getting stronger and for other stressors like getting sick. The process of adaptation requires energy in some form--and this includes immune system response.

Now, if you have more than 20% body fat, your body will probably be OK pulling the reserves from your fat. People with less than 15% body fat will likely need to supplement with food. That only speaks toward energy. NOTE: if you want your body to pull from your fat stores minimize the amount of carbohydrates you have. Carbs cause an insulin response, which suppresses your body's ability to burn fat until the blood sugar is back to normal.

That said, your body needs other things than just food. You may need to increase your micronutrients to provide the raw materials for your body to construct the antidote for your particular sickness. This is where extra Vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, etc. help fight off sickness. Typically this is done with vitamin supplements.

Lastly, most of your recovery processes happen when you are asleep or at the very least in a state of relative rest. Two of the most important things you can do in recovering from sickness is stay hydrated and sleep.

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There is scientific research which proves that calorie restriction prevents quick recovery from illness. Here is the link: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081125113102.htm

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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Can you please give an explanation of what is there in the link? –  Freakyuser Dec 31 '13 at 19:30
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Just like more sleep is recommended for a cold, so is a proper diet. You should eat a plentiful amount of everything (try and hit all the food groups) but focus specifically on vitamins too. I think Orange juice helped me a lot when I was sick.

So yes, food is the fuel for your immune system so eat up!

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While I think you have a point that its not healthy to starve yourself if you're having a cold, but do you have any reference to back up your answer? –  Ivo Flipse Mar 31 '12 at 18:17
    
Nope just personal experience. In the future, I will be sure to include references. –  ironcyclone Apr 1 '12 at 14:53
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