No one is immune to injuriesthey can happen anywhere, and at almost any time. Due to engaging in substantial physical activity, athletes are perhaps more prone to injuries than non-athletes. In Concepts of Athletic Training by Ronald P. Pfeiffer and Brent C. Magnus, it is succinctly stated that an athletes diet plays a critical, if not essential role, in performance. Hence, proper nutrition is vital to tissue healing and recovery. Pfeiffer and Magnus also cite that many injured athletes are highly concerned about weight gain during periods of inactivity; some athletes find it hard to change eating habits to lower their calorie consumption when they are not exercising. It is possible for some injured athletes to continue exercising with alternate activity (e.g. riding a stationary bike) thereby burning excess calories. However, athletes suffering from infectious ailments may not be able to shed excess calories through exercising. In this case, athletes should be mindful of reducing their calorie intake until they are healthy. Pfeiffer and Magnus add that supplementing adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals is essential to injury recovery.
Injuries come in different forms: sprains (ligament tissue injury), strains (muscle or tendon tissue injury), and fractures (bone tissue injury). When striving for injury recovery, it is important to set nutritional goals so a quicker recovery can be attained. The first nutritional goal is to balance the inflammation, which happens at the onset of an injury. Balancing inflammation is a protective, healing mechanism, which is critical to the initial healing process, but also needs to be controlled; neglecting to control the inflammation can result in scar tissue being formed. The second nutritional goal is to allow optimal injury healing5 to 7 days post injury/surgery causes skeletal muscle breakdown, resulting in hormonal and metabolic reactions, which suppress the immune system. The third nutritional goal is to support tissue healing. Tendons and ligaments typically have poor blood supply; therefore, incomplete healing is typical after injury. Incomplete healing can cause severe pain and feebleness, disrupting the individuals return to an optimal healthful state. The fourth and final nutritional goal is to fix protein and calorie imbalance.
To offset possible muscle breakdown that can happen after injury, it is essential to increase your protein consumption. Strive for 1.5 -2gr per pound of bodyweight and divide protein meals among 4 to 6 smaller meals throughout the day. Protein meals may include poultry, fish, eggs, lean beef, cottage cheese, and whey protein powder.
Good sources of carbohydrates include vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, legumes and oats; sugars and refined carbohydrates should be avoided. During the early stages of injury, consume carbohydrates in sufficient quantities so you have enough calories; however, after a week or two after injury/surgery, cut back on the carbohydrates, particularly if weight gain is a concern.
Fats are staunchly effectively in reducing inflammation; use Omega-3s and monounsaturated fat for this purpose. Recommended fat sources include fatty fish (e.g. mackerel, sardines, and salmon), nuts, olive oil, pumpkins, avocado, and flaxseeds. Avoid trans fat, omega-6 fats, and saturated fats, which can block healing by elevating inflammation.
Vitamin A helps with injury recovery by boosting the immune function, and promoting cell growth or repair and bone development. Food sources of Vitamin A include carrots, mangos, liver, sweet potatoes, spinach, papaya, and red peppers. Vitamin C is effective for collagen formation, increasing immune function, and replenishing the blood levels of vitamin C caused by an injury. Vitamin C food sources include broccoli, red peppers, cabbage, oranges, strawberries, cantaloupe, and grapefruit. Zinc is recommended for enzyme reactions and wound healing. Some zinc food sources are seafood, sunflower seeds, and almonds. Supplements, such as fish oil, amino acid (e.g. ornithine and glutamine), and HMB (beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate) are also helpful in injury recovery.
Jean Carper, author and nutrition columnist for USA Weekend magazine advises that curry powder contains curcumin, which is an anti-inflammatory source. Both athletes and non-athletes who suffer chronic back, knee, and shoulder pain should take note of curcumins powerful ability to alleviate inflammation. When applied immediately following an injury, ice packs are useful in reducing swelling. Further, drinking adequate amounts of water helps to heal severe joint pain and quickens recovery during injury rehabilitation.