Unbelievable, an injury has cut your season short. Your mind is all over the place and you are distraught. There are so many things running through your mind right now, and nutrition is not one of them.
What many people do not know is that nutrition plays a huge role in injury recovery, not just during performance. Proper nutrition can determine how long the recovery period is and how well you perform post-injury. Obviously, everybody’s injuries are different and vary in severity, but they all have one thing in common–wanting to get better faster.
There are two stages when it comes to injury: the healing and recovery phase and the rehabilitation phase. Both stages can be influenced in a positive way by nutrition.
During the healing and recovery stage, there is less physical activity or even none. The rehab phase is right before getting back into exercise and competition. The time between these stages can be lessened with the proper nutrition advice and action.
During the first stage, it is critical to not become deficient in any nutrients. Becoming deficient in energy, vitamins and minerals, and all the macronutrients will negatively affect recovery time and the outcomes of recovery and healing.
Getting adequate amounts of protein during the inactive times of exercise-related injury is crucial. Insufficient amounts of protein now will hinder wound healing and increase inflammation. Muscle loss can happen more rapidly if intake of protein is low.
The other things an athlete does not want to become deficient in during the recovery and healing stage are omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, creatine and many more. Micronutrients such as zinc, vitamin C and A and many more should be focused on when injured as well. Becoming deficient in these micronutrients can also lead to muscle loss and slowed recovery times. If injured from a fracture, then adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D should be a main concern for the athlete.
Excess nutrient intake is also not recommended. When injured, it is critical to get enough and the right amounts of nutrients, but getting too much can do just as much harm as not getting enough. Adding excess energy into the system can lead to excess fat in the body.
In addition, adding too many inflammatory foods into your diet can negatively impact healing. Inflammatory responses are vital to repairing and healing wounds. Ask your doctor or research what the recommended amounts of the nutrient are for your height, weight, amount of exercise and any other influence from your injury.
If you are concerned about nutrition and exercise-related injury and don’t know where to start, start off with protein intake. Studies have shown that sufficient amounts of protein and free amino acids have positively affected muscle growth and injury in athletes, as they can reduce indicators of muscle damage.
Here are some tips if you are struggling with an exercise-related injury. Make sure to eat every three to four hours; each meal and snack should have complete proteins in them, and multiple servings of fruits and vegetables should be consumed each day. Try to make all or most of your grains whole grains, and try to limit the amount of carbohydrates eaten because you are probably used to eating more during training or performance.
Athletes and gym rats everywhere should also be observant of what they are eating if you are injured. A plentiful and hearty diet can make or break your recovery period. If you ever become injured due to exercise, start with a healthy diet for a good start to your recovery period.
Mallory Ritthamel is a third-year student majoring in nutrition. She can be reached at MR826188@wcupa.edu.