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.