Why You Should Eat When You’re Sick

By JC Deen



As I write this my state of mind is a bit altered. I am running a temperature of 101.8 and I feel like I have had a conversation with Grim himself. At least he was decent company.

Normal Stuff

On that preceding intro, allow me to explain myself. Today started out like any other normal day. I woke up early to tackle the errands in my schedule. I ate a bowl of oats, monstrous plate of eggs and drank a shake. I had to run to the YMCA, update my membership information, go to the ATM and meet a good friend downtown to hang for a few hours. Not an incredibly happening day, but you know, fairly normal. That’s exactly how I felt up until about 4pm. I felt as normal as a young guy can feel, just going about his business, living life and hanging out with one of his best friends.

Not So Normal Stuff

Then it happened. On my way home, my stomach wasn’t acting like a normal stomach should be acting. It was actually hurting and rumbling and talking to me. I get to my place of residence and oddly, I don’t feel like eating, so I make an enormous shake in my gigantic blender that would put the fear of Moses in Jay Kordich from the late night juicer/blender infomercials. Eggs, oats, yogurt, cottage cheese, protein powder, peanut butter, the works – you name it, I put it in this shake. Excuse me, I am straying off topic.

And Here Is Where I Get Uncomfortable

Back to my talking stomach. After I finished my shake, I wasn’t too sure that was such a marvelous choice. My stomach still continued to gnash its bloody teeth at me. So I chewed on a few rolaids. Nothing, no relief. About 30 minutes later I decided it was a good time to be objective about my situation and admit to myself that I had come down with a nasty strain of influenza. In my misery I took it upon myself to ingest a few PM friendly tabs of acetaminophen. This was 7 PM mind you… I laid in bed for 2 straight hours changing the channel back and forth between Fight Club and Reservoir Dogs. My body ached and was on fire at the same time. I couldn’t decide to get out from underneath the layers of blankets or to set my hair ablaze and jump off of the top story of the nearest office building. At least that would take my mind off of the pain in my stomach. So as I lay there engulfed in flames, I figured this may be a good time to check my temperature, you know, for fun among other health reasons. This is when I discovered I was slowly roasting from the inside out. 101.8 Degrees Fahrenheit. As a result I get up in hopes of forcing myself to eat something and possibly allow my temperature to subside a bit, as I am sure the blankets and winter coat were not helping the matter.

Reason Behind My Illness Induced Rambling

Why did I take the time to write all of this? Simple. I feel very strongly about my current situation. I am not appreciable of the fact that I understand I NEED to eat but I struggle to lift my hand to my mouth and insert protein rich foods. Although I am not on a fat loss diet at this moment, I am remembering a few accounts of fitness folk asking if it’s alright to remain in a caloric deficit when you are sick and in the middle of a diet. Is it OK? One word: NO.

This is a period of time where your body is craving nutrients. In my current state I am not craving anything processed or sweet in the sense of manufactured carbohydrates. I am craving apples, pears, oranges and the variety of melons. Too bad I feel terrible and don’t think it would be a good idea to stroll over to my local grocer to snag some fruit. I am stuck in this house until tomorrow morning when I should be in a better cognitive state to pick up some fresh fruit.

Please, if you are reading this, take these tips to heart and do not for whatever reason continue on your fat loss diet when you are ill… Take a few days off to eat as much fresh food as you can. Ingest plenty of lean protein and do not forget to take your fish oils.

Your Body Is Craving Nutrients – In such a time when your body may feel like a raging furnace.

  • When you are sick, your body needs all the energy it can acquire. Stick with foods that are fresh and natural. Think of fruits, vegetables, oats etc.
  • Try to eat at least maintenance calories or slightly over maintenance. Your body will have a better chance of restoring itself.

Stay Hydrated – Gatorade is a good choice here.

  • Eating lots of fruit will help rehydrate you as they are full of water and vitamins.
  • Drink, drink, drink your water. Soup is also a very good choice to rehydrate and restore electrolytes when your rear end seems to be mimicking a busted fire hydrant.

Eat at Least Your Body weight in Grams of Protein – Maintain that hard earned LBM

  • Your body NEEDS energy; make sure your protein intake is up to par so you prevent the loss of lean body mass.
  • Eating protein along with fresh fruits should sit well on the stomach. I do not advocate eating protein only as this could cause more stomach complications.

REST – Out of everything I mentioned, I believe this tip to be most important.

  • Sleep, sleep and more sleep is key to recovery when ill.
  • Make a point to do nothing but sit on your rump, eat and sleep.
  • DO NOT try to be Captain America and workout when you are sick. This will delay recovery and makes you more susceptible to injury due to lack of strength and focus.
  • Stay home from work if you are able to.

My plans for tomorrow are to go straight to the grocer, fill my basket with fresh fruit, watch Fight Club again and enjoy being lazy. I did have a workout scheduled for tomorrow but I can workout any other day. While I have played the tough guy in the past, this time I will sit this training session out. Plus my Blue and Red Suit is getting a little snug.

Oh, and remember Meal Frequency is NOT an issue… Just eat!

11 thoughts on “Why You Should Eat When You’re Sick”

  1. I try to eat when I’m sick mostly sticking to the BRAT diet – B= bananas, R= rice, A=applesauce T=toast. Works for me except when I have a godawful stomach flu then it’s just plain water.

  2. I’m naughty when I get sick I usually don’t eat anything but I always keep hydrated. Thanks for the info I am sick at the moment and will try to eat some solids and see how I go.

  3. I eat plan rice ( with little bit of butter if you want ) and I also go on the BRAT Diet. Hope this helps!!!!!!!!!!

  4. When we are sick we don’t feel like eating. The food has no taste; every time we ingest something we are most likely to throw up. Ever wonder why?
    It’s our body’s way of telling us it doesn’t need food! It wants to use all its energy to HEAL you, not DIGEST food! Most people aren’t aware that the most energy-requiring body function is the digestion of food. Who hasn’t felt sleepy after a meal? Not eating for an entire day when you’re sick ENSURES that your body’s self-healing capability isn’t thwarted. Isn’t the human body just wonderful and intelligent? :)
    There is, however, one food that you can eat when you’re sick that will not thwart your body’s self-healing, but be of great help instead… FRUIT (raw veggies are also good, but fruit is easier to digest)! Fruit doesn’t even require digestion; it’s pre-digested the moment it enters the mouth and mixes with the saliva. Usually it only takes 15-45 minutes to leave the stomach. When it reaches the intestines there the life-giving, healing enzymes are transported. See, it doesn’t have to be complicated and regimented. Do it for one day and you’ll feel a lot better the following day. You don’t even need to pop a pill if you want to get healed (but you may do so if you like).
    Don’t take my word for it; go and try it for yourself. :)

    • Wow, the sheer volume of unsupported statements there is amazing to me.
      “OHG”, I always want to eat when I am sick, unless it is a direct stomach issue. My body seems to crave any and all foods. I have noticed that when I pack with purely as much as I can in the way of calories, I usually get better faster.
      e.g. Most times that I have a cold, the symptoms really die down the day after I just chew down as much “junk” food as possible.
      And I never “feel” like fruit, so I guess by your logic I should never eat it!

      I really liked this article and agreed with a lot of the recommendations. Of course, everyone is different, so adjust to experience, right?

  5. Ah, know how you feel, 2 days ago my fever went up so high I started hallucinating and passed out..(guessing it was around 103 or so, I think that’s when that kind of stuff starts) Then later that day went to the hospital and was at 102.2 then.. No idea what’s wrong, just been in bed up ’til now. Oh, and I’m in Japan, without any comforts from home. Not cool, not cool attt allllll

    • yes, it’s pretty crazy what being sick like this can do to a person. It definitely wouldn’t be fun being that sick away from home.

      What did they tell you/give you at the hospital?

Comments are closed.

JC Deen is a nationally published fitness coach and writer from Nashville, TN. Currently living in the blistering Northeast. Follow me on X/Twitter