Eat to Heal When Injury Strikes
When injuries occur, the acronym for the treatment strategy that is most commonly prescribed is R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Adding the letter “P” to the acronym for “Proper Nutrition” takes the treatment to the next level. Although athletes are now aware of the importance of eating healthfully to improve athletic performance, most athletes don’t have a strategy for how to eat when injury occurs. By adding “P,” athletes are reminded that they must pay the P.R.I.C.E. immediately and consistently when injury occurs in order to recover.
STRATEGY FOR RECOVERY
Food is strong medicine. When injuries occur, there are certain foods that can help fight inflammation, enhance immune system function, improve connective tissue repair, and increase protein synthesis.
Eat Multiple Meals
Since you need eights hours of sleep to make sure your body is recovering, you will have 16 other hours during the day to make sure you are getting the proper amount of food in your body for rehabilitation. If you are not eating often enough, healing can be inhibited. To eat for recovery, make sure to consume six meals per day, every two to three hours.
Increase Your Caloric Intake
When you’re injured, your body is going to need more energy for healing. Too often, when people stop training due to injury, they actually under-eat since they believe their caloric requirements have gone down. Focus on getting an extra 300 to 500 calories a day for the healing process.
Increase Your Protein
Protein is a critical nutrient for recovery and repair of the tissues of the body. Many athletes take in too many carbohydrates and not enough protein—even when not injured. A good rule of thumb when injured is to eat one gram of protein for every pound of body weight.
Watch Your Fats
Although many of us have been taught to avoid fats, this nutrient is for recovery. In particular, healthy fats such as olive oil, fish oil, flax seed oil, and the oils in nuts and seeds have been found to have positive anti-inflammatory effects and promote healing. When injured, intake of these fats should increase.
Take Your Vitamins
Vitamins A, D, and C are very important for healing but also commonly deficient in many people’s diets. If you don’t spend much time in the sun (to synthesize Vitamin D) or get enough A and C in your diet, make sure to supplement these important vitamins. Two grams of Vitamin C, 2,000 IU of Vitamin D, and 5,000 IU of Vitamin A per day can help promote healing and your immune system.
Take Your Minerals
Two minerals that help the healing process are zinc and magnesium. Zinc plays a strong role in healing and there are a number of ZMA (zinc and magnesium) products out there that offer the recommended 15 to 30mg of zinc per day. In addition, calcium and iron are also critical for bone health and development, so make sure to meet recommended daily allowances.
Eat Your Superfoods
There are a number of foods that are now being praised for their positive effects on the body. Some benefits include the ability to reduce inflammation and pain. Superfoods such as blueberries, green tea, and garlic all demonstrate properties to assist healing. Add these foods or their extracts to your diet.
Know Your Amino Acids
Amino acids are known as the building blocks of protein. Of the 23 known amino acids, there are two in particular that have been found essential for tissue repair and metabolism— glutamine and arginine. A daily intake of 10 grams of both amino acids during periods of injury have been found to help tissue regeneration.