Ah injuries. We’ve all been there, whether its a minor soft tissue injury or something more serious such as a broken bone. Everyone knows the usual method of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), but nutrition also has an important role to play during recovery.
When the body is injured, energy needs increase in order to aid the healing process. For most sports injuries and minor surgeries, basal metabolic rate (BMR) can increase 15%-20%. Major surgeries and burns can lead to a 50% increase.
It’s important to note though that if your injury puts you out of any and all training, you should decrease overall intake slightly. There is a happy medium to find. Your energy expenditure has gone down but you also don’t want to under eat since your BMR will have increased.
Other than the amount of calories, it’s also important to pay attention to macronutrient intake. Dietary protein should increase. If you are not already eating 2g protein per kg body weight (1g/1lb) it is more important than ever to be hitting protein needs, especially if you want a rapid recovery.
Having the right balance of fats is also necessary, as omega-6 and omega-3 fats effect overall inflammation in the body. During acute injuries, I recommend increasing omega-3 fats (anti inflammatory fats). The best way to do this is by supplementing with 3-9g of fish oil per day. Nuts, seeds, and olive oil can also reduce inflammation. All three work in a way similar to ibuprofen. Be careful though, too much anti inflammatories can reduce acute healing. In the end, it comes down to having a balanced fat intake.
We all know that vitamins and minerals are important. There are some vitamins and minerals though that may require additional supplementation during injury.
- Vitamin A: This plays three main roles in injuries. First, vitamin A helps to support early inflammation. Second, it reverses immune suppression following an injury. Third, it enables collagen formation. The recommended supplement dose for a sports injury is 10,000IU* for 1-2 weeks post injury. For a serious trauma or surgery, 25,000IU. *IU stands for International Unit and is used in pharmacology to quantify vitamins.
- Vitamin C: This aids in lymphocyte (type of white blood cell) activity, which helps with immune system, and collagen synthesis. Supplementing with vitamin C is beneficial for anyone recovering from surgery or injury. Recommended dosage is 1-2g per day.
- Copper: Aids in formation of red blood cells and works with vitamin C to strengthen connective tissues. Recommended supplementation is 2-4mg per day during first several weeks following an injury.
- Zinc: A deficiency in zinc is one of the most common mineral deficiencies and is often associated with poor healing in wounds. Recommended supplementation is 15-30mg per day, especially as an injury is beginning to heal.
In addition to macro and micronutrients necessary for healing, there are some dietary herbs and foods that are naturally rich in inflammation regulating agents.
- Curry powder/turmeric
Remember though, there is too much of a good thing. We want to prevent inflammation from getting out of control, not prevent it from happening completely. The inflammation process is necessary for repair and without it injuries would not heal.
Happy healing everyone!