Diet and Nutrition Tips to Speed Up Injury Recovery
Physical activity undoubtedly brings many benefits to the body. Sometimes, however, playing sports not only at the professional level but also at the amateur level leads to injury. If an injury occurs and we have to give up our previous activity or are immobilized, we are more exposed to the loss of muscle mass and decrease of the body's efficiency. In such a situation, much depends on the intervention of a doctor and physiotherapist, but we can also significantly affect the regeneration process and eliminating the negative effects of immobilization by a properly selected diet and supplementation.
The diet used during the recovery period after injuries should be balanced and based on unprocessed and anti-inflammatory foods, but ...
The treatment process can be divided into the acute phase that follows immediately after the injury and the rehabilitation/recovery phase.
In the acute phase, there is inflammation, which is associated negatively, although it is needed for wound healing. Let us remember that fever or inflammation indicates that our body is "fighting". Most of the injuries caused by physical exertion, especially in healthy exercisers and athletes, would not be heavy enough for uncontrolled inflammation to be a problem. Therefore, during this phase, nutritional interventions and inflammation-reducing supplementation should be used with caution. You should also watch out for NSAIDs that can suppress the inflammation needed in the acute phase. Foods and supplements showing anti-inflammatory effects are the most desirable but rather not in the first four days of injury.
In a situation where we are excluded from sports, the first thought that comes to our mind is "I'm less active/so I should eat less" so as not to gain weight. Quite the contrary! During the healing and regeneration process, the body's energy expenditure increases, so a negative calorie balance will be a mistake. Of course, I do not encourage to eat too much, you should always be moderate. In this situation, a neutral balance or a delicate caloric surplus of 5% - 10% of the demand should be a good solution.
Not only the amount of energy supplied but also the distribution of macronutrients is not without significance. Adequate supply of protein and EAA (exogenous amino acids) is necessary to support MPS (muscle protein synthesis) processes and inhibit the MPB (muscle protein break down) process, thus minimizing the risk of muscle atrophy.
Creatine - there is no one hundred percent evidence confirming the effect of creatine on eliminating muscle wasting during immobilization, although there are studies confirming its positive effect on the rate of muscle growth and strength gains during rehabilitation.
Omega-3 fatty acids - it is worth paying attention to the appropriate supply, due to their anti-inflammatory properties. They are found in fatty fish like salmon or mackerel or in dietary supplements. However, you should carefully implement any means to reduce inflammation because of its positive effect on the healing process.
Vitamin D - is very important for the functioning of the musculoskeletal system. Most people in our latitude have a shortage. Studies show that increasing vitamin D levels reduces inflammation, pain, and myopathy, while also increasing muscle protein synthesis, ATP concentration, strength, jump height, jump speed, jump strength, exercise ability, and physical performance. In addition, the right amount of calcium and Vit. D is important for optimal bone formation in the event of fractures.
Vitamin C - is associated with the synthesis of hydroxyproline necessary for the formation of collagen. It is also an antioxidant, so it reduces inflammation and its supply in an excessive dose, like Omega-3, can negatively affect recovery time.
Vitamin A – has been used topically in dermatology for many years. It has been found to stimulate epithelial growth, fibroblasts, and ground substance and also has an anti-inflammatory effect in open wounds. The literature supports the positive effect of supplemental vitamin A in acute wounds and the healing of fractures, burns, bowel, and radiation-induced injuries.
Zinc - it is part of many enzymes that are involved in wound healing, participate in the functioning of antioxidants, cell replication, nucleic acid metabolism, tissue repair, and growth. Nevertheless, it is suggested to recommend supplementation only in the case of a deficiency, because the excess may interfere with absorption, including iron and copper. It can be supplemented as an ingredient in a multi-component preparation.
In the case of many micronutrients, the literature says that the recommended values are sufficient, so if there are no deficiencies, there is no need to supplement excessive doses.
Summarizing, let's try to make our diet based on unprocessed products, with the right calorie supply and with special emphasis on the right amount of protein. Let's also try to provide micronutrients that support the body's actions in the fight against injury. However, we should remember that these are general recommendations and each case should be considered individually and that prevention is better than cure!