Anyone that’s been injured before would agree with me that being injured is one of the most frustrating things you’ll experience through your sporting life. During the injury period there is a great temptation to lose focus by going out and do other things such as, eat junk food, go on nights out, and generally take your mind off training/exercising because you’re unable to train as you were. I’ve done it myself in the past, “I may as well go for drinks tonight because I can’t train anyways” or “I’ll treat myself to a takeaway tonight, I’m injured so it doesn’t matter”. All I was doing was increasing the time it takes me to get back to being able to train or do exercise again. If anything, eating and drinking the right things is more essential when injured than not because your body is constantly working to repair itself. This way of thinking is unfortunately a result of underestimation of the role of nutrition during the injury healing process. Here I will highlight some nutritional tips that will help speed up your recovery from injury and get you back to training/exercise as soon as possible.
Maintain Energy Intake
Through an injury your body’s working hard to recover and heal the damaged tissues. During this period you may reduce or change your training to accommodate for the injury. However, it’s still important to maintain energy intake so that your body can continue to work and have enough energy to manufacture new tissue required to recover. In fact, it’s been shown that the body’s Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) increases from anywhere between 15-50% depending on severity of injury. Therefore, if energy intake is limited, injury recovery time will be negatively impacted resulting in a delayed return to full fitness.
Types of Foods to Consume
While maintaining energy intake is important, it is just as important to ensure that the type of food consumed is beneficial for tissue healing. Foods high in omega-3 fats have proven anti-inflammatory qualities which helps with healing and collagen deposition. Don’t get me wrong, inflammation is an essential part of the healing process but foods with anti inflammatory properties don’t negatively effect the inflammatory phase of healing. Additionally, vitamins A, C, and E, copper, zinc, iron, manganese support tissue repair by helping early inflammation, reverse post-injury immune suppression, assist collagen formation, strengthen connective tissue, and support protein synthesis. Processed foods do not have the nutritional value to help the healing process so it’s important to have a balanced diet with plenty of colourful fruit, veg and a variety of meat, fish and dairy products to ensure that you consume the vitamins and minerals required.
When you’re injured it’s important to remember that your body requires a consistently high protein intake. A diet consisting of limited protein is largely detrimental to injury recovery. Limited protein affects all phases of healing but the major effect is that the inflammatory phase is prolonged causing a delay in tissue repair beginning. Additionally, collagen synthesis is impaired which delays the remodelling of the injured area and the body’s immune function is also suppressed which leads to increased susceptibility to infection. So it’s important to consume plenty of protein based foods (lean meats, fish, eggs, etc.) throughout your injury.
Avoid Alcohol Consumption
Whether your injured or not, alcohol consumption is incredibly detrimental to the recovery and healing processes. Alcohol has been proven to significantly reduce protein synthesis meaning that tissue healing and regeneration is put on hold or greatly reduced which increases time to full recovery. It has also been found to reduce sleep which directly results in a 70% decrease in growth hormone (essential for tissue repair) production! Not only that but it also causes the production of substances that are toxic to testosterone (also essential for tissue repair and recovery). So alcohol significantly delays the healing process of an injury, therefore, if you’re in a hurry to return to sport i’d recommend staying away from alcohol!!
These are my quick nutritional tips for anyone out there suffering with injuries who want to reduce their return to sport time. I hope everyone reading has found this blog useful and apply this information to their own recovery practice. Please let me know what you think & if you have any questions relating to this or anything else just drop me a message and I’ll get back to ASAP.
Finally, thanks for reading!