Nutritional support is a key part of the recovery process from injury. In this blog post we aim to outline strategies to ensure your diet is promoting your rehabilitation and return to activity, instead of impeding it!
The key consideration, above all else, is that you must be mindful to avoid any nutritional deficiencies, as these can impair and lengthen the recovery and rehabilitation process. These include deficiencies in; Energy, macronutrients, micronutrients and minerals. Being deficient in any one of these dietary components can impair recovery and wound healing as well as exacerbating loss of muscle and tendon mass and function.
Athletes and or coaches may intuitively reduce energy to coincide with the reduction in activity. This is mainly due to fears that the reduction in activity will lead to weight fat gain. However, one of the key nutritional interventions to avoid muscle atrophy is to ensure that you are NOT employing a severe calorie deficit. During the healing process, energy expenditure is increased in relation to the severity of the injury. The more severe - The more energy is expended (due to increased demand caused by the wound healing and tissue turnover processes). In fact, energy expenditure may increase anywhere from 15 – 50%. Therefore, the perceived reduction in energy expenditure by the athlete and or coach may be less than what is thought.
Akin to a large calorie deficit, an insufficient protein intake can result in significant muscle atrophy until normal eating/movement habits return. You should be aiming for caloric balance and maintaining an adequate protein intake (which should be notably higher in athletic populations) to reduce the impact of atrophy during this time. For most athletes an intake of >1.6-2g/kg body weight of protein is adequate.
Micronutrients and Minerals
As far as micronutrients and minerals go; It’s best to follow general practice, avoiding deficiencies and aiming to eat a predominantly highly nutritious and varied diet, consisting of 5-10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. If your injury is a fracture/bone break, a vitamin D and calcium supplement may provide additional benefit to recovery, but shouldn’t take precedent over the previous points.
Appears to be effective for somewhat reducing atrophy in the upper body but not the lower
Appears to prevent the decrease in GLUT4 (carbohydrate transporter in the cell) associated with muscle disuse
During rehabilitation, creatine supplementation resulted in an increase rate of muscle growth and strength gains compared with placebo
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory function
Need to be conservative with recommendations due to its anti-inflammatory property as over usage can result in impaired wound healing (however dosages are quite large - in excess of 8g)
Omega-3 fatty acids may play a role in reducing muscle loss associated with muscle disuse
Appears to have an anti-catabolic effect
Alcohol reduces MPS which can have obvious consequences for tissue repair and wound healing
Impedes wound healing through reduction in inflammatory response
Increased rate of muscle loss during periods of immobilization
Avoid severe calorie restriction
Avoid micronutrient and mineral deficiencies
Maintain and/or increase protein intake to increase muscle protein synthesis and maintain skeletal muscle mass
Creatine supplementation may maintain muscular strength/performance and muscle mass
Omega 3 (EPA & DHA) supplements may improve muscle mass retention
We hope that these nutritional strategies can help you through your recovery process. Here at The Fit Clinic we have a team of highly accredited and experienced nutritionists to help guide you through this process should you need additional assistance. It can be a difficult time, both physically and mentally, and having the added support from a nutritionist will certainly help your recovery campaign!