There is no getting away from it, injuries are an inevitable part of life. Globally, millions of people, every year succumb to a sports-related trauma. A sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, and even plain bad habits might also be the cause of a new injury.
Nutrition may not be your priority whilst you convalesce, but it should be! If you are resting or in a cast, then eating will help you to maintain muscle mass whilst you are off your game. Furthermore, macronutrients have a significant influence on the healing process. The injured body needs raw material to repair the damage, and those materials come from the foods you eat. Let's look at the key dietary strategies you can put in place to augment your holistic recovery.
Eat more protein:
Proteins are long chains of amino acids. Your body can only produce 10 out of the 20 types of amino acids. The remaining number, known as 'essential amino acids' comes from your food. They are vital to building muscle mass and repairing damaged tissues. In short, if you don’t meet your body's protein requirements then it can slow down your recovery.
In practical terms, when injured, we should aim to eat more protein than usual. Its recommend to 'up' our daily intake during these times to 1.6- 2g per kilo of your body weight. But don't eat it all in one sitting; it's best to spread this across the day as our body can only absorb 25-35g in a meal. It is a good idea to include proteins that are rich in Leucine. Leucine triggers the production of human growth hormone, making it a wound healing hero. If your daily intake falls short then you could use a protein shake to supplement.
Don't cut the carbs!
Carbohydrates are the "powerhouse" of your body. When injured, your energy expenditure increases whilst your body is repairing the damage. Carbs provide you with the fuel you need for this to happen. An adequate ratio of high-quality carbs also helps with preventing muscle loss. People often fear weight gain and eat less whilst they rest from sport. Whilst understandable, this is actually counterproductive and may slow your recovery. The NHS recommends a daily intake of around 30 grams of complex carbohydrates. Be sure to avoid sugary and processed carb sources though, which are enemies of recovery.
Eat Omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation
Inflammation is a normal part of the healing process and peaks in the first 72 hours of injury. But, if it lingers and becomes persistent then it prevents healing. This is when Omega-3s can help. Omega-3 is one of nature's anti-inflammatory ‘big guns’. These fatty acids also help with preventing muscle atrophy. Nutritionists suggest a daily intake of 3000-4000mg when dealing with problematic inflammation. But, make sure you do not confuse omega-3 with omega-6 fatty acids, which can actually make it worse.
Make sure you get enough Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an organic molecule that helps your body with all sorts of jobs, one is to fight infection. It also has an essential role in collagen synthesis. This improves the body's ability to rebuild and maintain muscles, tendons, and bones. Vitamin C has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties too, which will speed up healing.
Get some Zinc in your diet:
Zinc is a chemical component in over 100 enzymes, proteins, and vitamins. This includes some of those needed for tissue repair and wound healing. It's best to get the zinc from your diet because it can be dangerous in high quantities. Furthermore, zinc supplements may contain other elements that are counter-productive to healing.
Foods to avoid!
Primary enemies to wound healing are alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, and white sugars. This is because these can all drive inflammation in the affected area. Refined sugar also damages collagen, making it counterproductive to tissue repair.
You can manipulate your diet to optimise a holistic rehabilitation from injury. Prevention is the best medicine of course. Balanced nutrition will help keep the musculoskeletal system robust and resilient. So even in good health we should eat enough and eat well to reduce the risk of developing a new injury.