27 April 2020



Can nutrition help athletes in this difficult time during the corona-crisis? What is special for judokas, different to other sports? Can precise and selected foods strengthen our immune system and make us more resistant against covid-19? Uwe von Renteln offers up some answers to those questions. The 50 -year-old is a nutritionist, has spent the last five years overseeing the German National Judo Team but also has his hands full looking after the athletics, swimming and national curling teams. Can we do something to make us more resistant against covid-19?

What role does our immune system have in regard to covid-19?

Our immune system can fight against different viruses. We have different kinds of somatic cells such as immune cells, scavenger cells or killer cells these are able to recognize, combat and kill viruses. To protect us against Influenza viruses to which the covid-19 virus belongs, we have to strengthen our immune system.

What do we need in detail?

We all need omega-3 fatty acids. You can find this in fish and nuts, for example. What we also need is protein. That consists of amino acids. This you can find in animal products such as meat, milk, eggs, cheese, curd but also herbal products like pulses. If you are lacking in both these areas, then it is a disaster.

Nutritionist Uwe von Renteln together with the Austria National Judo Team

The athletes are currently operating under severe restrictions in their countries. What are the possible consequences for their bodies?

Where they are restricted to being outside because of the virus, and in some cases not allowed to go out at all, some athletes could develop problems with their Vitamin D levels. Even under normal circumstances we very often have cases where athletes have a deficiency of this; now it could get critical. And Vitamin D is so important for a strong immune system. As a consequence of exposure to direct sunlight our bodies produce Vitamin D. This process can be hindered with the use of sun cream. Vitamin D levels can be measured and if low, you can supplement your levels with drops or tablets. This is a relatively simple, easy and fast working alternative. It is impossible to meet the needs solely with food. The less Vitamin D you have the higher your vulnerability to influenza.

What else can you do to stay healthy?

Sleep! That is also very important. During the night the immune system is strengthened. The immune defence is in a way building itself up. That means: go to bed early, no blue light on your smartphone in the evening, no sabotage with sweet beverages or alcohol that keeps you awake.

What do we as judokas need?

Our muscles are our biggest hormone-producing organs. When we train we produce so-called myokine. These are “allrounders.” They activate immune cells, transport antibodies to the place where they are needed. That is why sport and training is so helpful. But our bodies need amino acids. That is why before and after training it is useful to have something like a protein shake.

What food is important?

Food is our medicine! But we have to be careful to have the right ones! It is important to eat a variety of greens, fruit and vegetables; the best is fresh and regional. Also helpful are for example currants, raspberries, blackberries or avocados. The majority of the immune defense is regulated from the intestine. Everybody who has got a problem with it, should seek help through fibres, pulses, red and black rice, buckwheat, chickpeas or peeks.

How do you keep yourself fit during the crisis?

Well personally, I of course maintain a healthy nutritional diet. At the moment I have a lot of time, I spend it with my family. I live in a small house close to a wood in front of a little lake. I go jogging, bicycle riding and go canoeing. I hope that all will come back soon to a reality that we have become used to and I hope that we all stay healthy.

Author: Annett Bohm