OVERCOMING INJURIES WITH NUTRITION

Nutrition

OVERCOMING INJURIES WITH NUTRITION

OVERCOMING INJURIES WITH NUTRITION

We’ve all been there. On a roll with our training and nutrition, getting into a routine and feeling like we’re on top of the world. Then along comes the inevitable steps backward in the form of an injury. You may not see it coming, or maybe you felt a niggle that became something more serious. Either way, the question now becomes how do I get back on track as quickly as possible?

Here are some strategies to help you heal fast so you can get back to chasing your goals. Note that it is split into 2 sections due to the different physiological processes your body goes through for recovery. Follow these tips and you’ll be back on your feet in no time!

SEE ALSO > 5 NUTRITION MYTHS DEBUNKED

0-6 DAYS POST INJURY 

The first week is the most important for recovery! The inflammation process for the first 48 hours is important for long term recovery, so reduce the number of anti-inflammatory meds and ice during this time. Nutrition plays a huge role in recovery, so follow these tips for the first 6 days after an injury has occurred: 

  1. Omega 3s and 6s: Monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and can help improve healing. These nutrients can be found in oily fish, seeds and nuts, avocados, linseed, chia seeds, and eggs.

  2. Turmeric: Curcumin found in turmeric is an anti-inflammatory agent. Turmeric can be added to foods in everyday consumption and can also be found in supplement form. 

  3. Garlic: Improves immune function and inhibits inflammatory enzymes. The dosage required to acquire the benefits is quite high (2-4 grams of garlic a day) so supplementation may be a better option.

  4. Bromelain: Found in pineapple, it provides pain relief and anti-inflammatory benefits

  5. Boswellia: Is a plant-derived anti-inflammatory and is often paired with curcumin in supplements

  6. Flavonoids: Are anti-oxidants found in foods such as cocoa, tea, fruits, vegetables and legumes, their anti-oxidant qualities help with inflammation.

  7. Protein & BCAA’s: Are important for muscle tissue repair and recovery, so make sure you are consuming high-quality sources during this first week

  8. AVOID: Processed foods, foods high in saturated fats, trans fats and vegetable oils 

Keep serving sizes in check if you are out of action due to the injury so as to avoid excess calorie consumption as this will lead to

TAKE AWAY MESSAGES FOR DAYS 0-6:

KEYS FOODS TO FOCUS ON: leafy green veggies, legumes, nuts and seeds, fish and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

SUPPLEMENTS TO CONSIDER: fish oil, turmeric, garlic, Boswellia

It is important not to overdo it on the anti-inflammatory supplements in the initial phases of recovery, as a certain level of inflammation is required for the body to recover. The best option is to focus on gaining the anti-inflammatory benefits via whole foods rather than supplements, as these naturally balance out the effects.

The ideal nutrition strategies for your injury will differ depending on the injury type, whether it is chronic or acute, soft tissue or bone, so make sure you consult a professional if you wish to optimize your nutrition for your personal situation. Remember that while your health and fitness goals remain important, optimum recovery needs to be the priority when coming back from an injury.

Listen to your body and your health professionals to ensure you are challenging your body in the right ways and fuelling it accordingly.

7+ DAYS POST INJURY

So you’ve been resting up hard for the last week and are itching to get back out there chasing your goals. The first thing to consider is your exercise limitations - make sure you are following your recommendations, it’s key to ensure you don’t jump straight back into a full-blown workout regime as your body will still have a lot of healing to do. Here is what to do from day 7 onwards when it comes to nutrition:

  1. Portions: It becomes even more important during this time to pay attention to meal portions, as generally when you are injured, your physical activity levels are significantly lower

  2. Vitamin A: Found in carrots, kale, spinach, sweet potato, broccoli

  3. B group vitamins: Wholegrains, legumes, some dairy products, nuts, leafy greens, eggs, fish, shellfish

  4. Vitamin C: Oranges, red pepper, kale, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, strawberries

  5. Vitamin D: Sunlight, oily fish such as sardine, salmon, mackerel, tuna, eggs

  6. Minerals & Trace Elements: A supplementation is a good option with these nutrients if you don’t regularly get them from your diet:

  • Calcium (dairy, leafy greens)

  • Copper (lentils, nuts, and seeds)

  • Magnesium (spinach)

  • Iron (oysters, silverbeet)

  • Manganese (mussels, nuts, seeds, tofu)

  • Zinc (oysters, spinach, red meat) 

TAKE AWAY MESSAGES FOR DAYS 7+

FOODS TO FOCUS ON: Lots of fruits and veggies, especially leafy greens, legumes, nuts and seeds, fish and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

SUPPLEMENTS TO CONSIDER: Vitamins A, B group, C and D. Consult your dietitian for further advice.

As you can see, the nutritional requirements differ greatly between the first week and subsequent weeks when rehabilitating an injury. Obtaining the above nutrients from whole foods is generally considered the best option, as they provide a well-balanced range of nutrients. 

The optimum combination of nutrients differs depending on the type of injury as well, so for these reasons, it's always best to seek personalized advice to help you get back to your full potential as quickly as possible. Keep in mind that it can take up to 6 weeks for a soft tissue injury to complete laying down new tissue and for this scar tissue to start becoming stronger.

So while you may no longer be in pain or have physical limitations, your body is still healing and hence requires nutrition to support these physiological processes. We all know how powerful nutrition strategies can be in helping us reach our goals, and this is even more important when recovering from an injury!