You want to start losing weight and now you have the flu. You’re probably wondering if it is safe to try to lose weight when sick with the flu. Have you spent many days researching on how to reach your weight loss goal, only to now feel hindered in the process after sickness reared its ugly head?
Let’s dive in and evaluate if it is safe for you to continue on with your weight loss plan now that you have the Flu.
Will the flu destroy my weight loss goals?
The answer is, no. Having the flu is not going to ruin your goals of losing weight. Let’s be honest, the flu is no fun. Having the flu is one of the worst feelings in the world. It can leave you feeling down and out for days, if not longer.
Let’s start out by defining what the flu actually is. The flu is first and foremost, a virus. Influenza is a viral infection that causes most people to experience fever, achy muscles, chills, sweating, headache, cough, and vomiting with diarrhea. These are not the only symptoms one can have, but this is what most people experience.
The Flu travels through the air in droplet form and the carrier can infect someone by coughing, sneezing, or even talking. There are groups of people who are at higher risk including people over age 65, immunocompromised, and obesity is also a risk factor. The Flu can be deadly for some, but not for most. (source)
More than likely, you are not going to have much of an appetite when you have the Flu, especially if you are feeling nauseous or are having bouts of vomiting. It is still important, however, to eat and drink fluids.
Having the flu or being sick in general, does not mean that you have to eat MORE. It does mean that you should be increasing your fluid intake and staying hydrated. There is no research that shows that eating excess amounts of calories helps you get over the Flu faster. The Flu is a virus that must run its course.
Medications can be taken such as prescription Tamiflu, which might prevent Flu or decrease the amount of time that you suffer from the symptoms, but viruses must run their course through our body.
There are foods out there, however, that are important to provide you with energy and the right nutrients when you are sick while also helping you to lose weight at the same time.
Foods great for weight loss that also combat Flu
These foods are important to include in your diet when you are sick with the Flu as they are high in nutrients your body will need, and many of them are good for keeping your body hydrated, and are not packed with calories.
Chicken broth is great for losing weight with the Flu
You do not have to pick only chicken broth, but you could choose from other types of broth as well such as beef or vegetable. The broth will help prevent your body from becoming dehydrated and prevent you from getting even sicker. Broth can also sooth your throat if you have a sore throat with your Flu.
There are about 86-90 calories in one cup of chicken broth so this is a great food to include when you are trying to lose weight but also have the Flu. You could also purchase a lower sodium option or even make your own chicken stock at home. You could even add some chicken if you would like! Chicken is a great source of protein and is a lean meat source.
Yogurt is another great option
Yogurt is a great choice when you are sick with the flu and also when trying to lose weight. Yogurt is high in sources of protein and calcium, and can even help sooth your throat as well.
Oranges are high in Vitamin-C, which will step in to help kick up that immune system. There are about 45 calories in one small orange which will be great for losing weight and combatting Flu at the same time. If are too sick to peel the orange, just pour yourself a glass of orange juice with some extra pulp in there.
Broccoli is a weight loss and nutrient superfood
Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables of all time. Broccoli is jam packed full of Vitamins C and E as well as healthy amounts of calcium and fiber. Broccoli has an estimated 30 calories in one cup so along with it’s abundant amounts of nutrients to help get you over this Flu, you can rest assured knowing you are still eating healthy and can lose weight.
Foods bad for losing weight with the Flu
First and foremost, it is wise to stay away from alcohol when you have the Flu. The most important thing to remember when you have the Flu is that you need to stay hydrated. Alcohol will definitely not help you to stay hydrated, it does the opposite. Alcohol will cause you to become dehydrated and lower your blood sugar.
It would be a better choice to stick with drinks such as tea (any tea except black tea) or juice. Ginger Ale is also a great choice to help with nausea. There are also brands of ginger ale with zero calories which will help you on track to reach your goal of losing weight while kicking this Flu in the butt.
Caffeinated beverages are not the greatest choice as they can make you more dehydrated. Plus, many of these beverages may contain sugar. Some beverages high in caffeine are coffee, energy drinks, and certain sodas such as Mountain Dew. (source)
Calorie deficit and the Flu
If you do not know this by now, you NEED to be in a calorie deficit when trying to lose weight. If you are not in a calorie deficit, weight loss will simply not happen for you.
If you are unsure of what a calorie deficit is or how you can learn more and calculate your calorie deficit, see this other related article to learn more on how to start.
When you have the Flu, you most likely feel very sick. There are certain studies that have been completed that show that restricting calories to 40% of a normal diet could prevent overcoming the Flu or will cause overcoming the Flu at a slower pace. These studies were completed on lab mice who were under a calorie restriction of 40% of normal daily diet while also infected with influenza.
What is important to remember is that first and foremost, we are not mice. The second thing to remember is that if we are in a healthy calorie deficit, we would not be restricting our calories by 40%. We should not be RESTRICTING ourselves at all.
Lose weight with the flu by decreasing your calorie deficit
The best thing to do when trying to maintain your calorie deficit with the Flu, create LESS of a calorie deficit. Give yourself a little bit of breathing room.
If you were previously adhering to a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day, maybe decrease that deficit down to 300 calories per day, or even decrease the amount to your maintenance level. You may not lose as much weight, or you may not lose any at all. This is okay! The most important thing to do, is to not attempt to go into a calorie surplus just because you are sick.
Going into a calorie surplus when you are sick with the Flu is not going to make you feel any better. If you are nauseated, it could actually make you feel even worse. Viruses do have the ability to slow down how well food moves through the GI tract, which can cause some uncomfortable causing nausea and bloating.
Just because you are sick and you increase your calories into surplus mode, does not mean you will not gain weight. You will gain weight if you eat too many calories than you are burning, even if you are sick with the Flu.
Restart your calorie deficit when you’re better
We all get sick sometimes, it isn’t fun and no one enjoys it. Being sick has the ability to ruin our entire week, our plans, and just make us miserable. The Flu causes people to call off work just to lay in bed all day, and feel not so productive.
If you end up getting the Flu, just take it easy on yourself, eat healthy foods that are lower in calories but high in nutrients. Drink plenty of fluids and keep yourself hydrated. Losing weight with the Flu is still attainable for you and your progress will not be destroyed.
If for some reason, you do not eat as healthy as you would like and you feel like you messed up, just remember you can ALWAYS get back on track. Just start fresh when you feel better. Do not ever punish yourself for slipping up, we all do sometimes.