Following an acute injury, it is the athletes primary goal to get better and heal as quickly as possible. How can we bolster this healing process through the foods we consume? Or rather, how does nutrition effect our healing?
Supplementing your diet during the healing process becomes an imperative particularly in the acute phase of injury. The nutritional deficit is different during healing than in the normal muscular breakdown and rebuild period. Let’s digest some facts.
It’s a natural default to regard periods of injury as periods of inactivity, which is detrimental because the demand on the body is far different. An athlete’s metabolic rate (BMR) increases approximately 15% to 20% after injury or minor surgery.
Major surgery can increase these needs by almost 50% (Kloubek). For those of you (like me) who need a cheat sheet, if you consume 2000 calories on a normal rest day, need 2400 during that acute injury period.
Take Home Tip: Eat more than you would on a rest day but less than on a training day.
Have you ever heard the word “Atrophy”? It simply means that those muscle cells decrease in size and efficiency but don’t disappear. Injury repair requires additional protein to prevent a decrease in protein synthesis. ACSM recommends that injured athletes aim for 1.5 to 2.0 g/kg body weight, which is higher than the usual 1.2 to 1.7 g/kg for athletes and 0.8 to 1.0 g/kg for recreational exercisers. Here is their example, “a 150-lb (68-kg) athlete would require 102 to 136 g of protein daily during healing from an injury.” Does that sound like a lot of protein to you? Cause it sure sounds like a lot to me! Pardon me while I go boil some eggs…
To be or not to be… We don’t want to eliminate inflammation all together. A direct result of inflammation is the production of free radicals. (These are also created during muscle contraction, ps.) I know that is a scary term but it’s a natural outcome of muscle breakdown to which our bodies have a built in antidote. Important antioxidants in the body are vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin A, selenium, and zinc. So why not bolster our bodies effort! That’s where the whole food consumption of fruits and veggies comes in handy.
During acute injury, the inflammatory response is integral to healing but too much is too much. Here’s a healthy way to reduce inflammation without getting rid of our bodies healing response. And you are going to love this: “Flavonoids found in cocoa, tea, red wine, fruits, vegetables, and legumes can help manage inflammation through their antioxidant actions.” Again, thank you ACSM. In addition, studies comparing the effects of Ibuprofen and turmeric use show similar efficacy rates, meaning that with low dose use IBU and turmeric were just as effective. (2)
Take Home Tip: Eat more flavonoid-rich foods such as blueberries, strawberries, carrots,
broccoli, and pineapple in general and more so during acute injuries.
The requirements are a tiny different when it comes to healing connective tissue: Cartilage, joints, fascia, tendons. These are comprised of a different kind of cellular structure which is more of a matrix combination of protein fibers and cross purpose molecules that are part protein and part carbohydrate which are all floating in a fluid environment. So hydration is key but also are the big anti-oxidant nutrients listed above.
So here’s to cold pressed juice, Indian food, and Fatty Fish! nomnomnom
References (1) Kloubec J, Harris C. 2016 Whole Foods Nutrition for Enhanced Injury Prevention and Healing. ACSM. 20:2, 7-11. (2) Hume A. 2014 Turmeric For Osteoarthritis Pain. PharmacyToday. 20:12