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Nutrition for Injury

Often overlooked, nutrition can play a key role in your injury rehabilitation. The right nutrients at the right time can have a significant impact on recovery from injury, aiding in the repair and regeneration of new tissue. Additionally, getting your diet right can also have a significant impact upon what happens to your body composition (i.e. maintenance of muscle mass and/or preventing a gain in fat mass). Therefore, considering your nutrition as part of your recovery from injury may get you back out exercising sooner and ensure that you maintain your optimal physique

To cut out or add in?

When an athlete suffers from an injury, training loads are generally reduced, and this can lead not only to weight gain, but also a significantly higher loss of muscle mass due to a reduce in muscle protein synthesis (MPS). Furthermore, with a reduced training load and resultant weight gain, recovery may be impacted upon due to greater stress (i.e. load) being put upon that injured site. However, whilst diet must be adjusted to account for the reduced training, you must be careful when restricting your intake, as this may accelerate losses to lean mass. Additionally, inadequate nutrition may interfere with your body's ability to heal, thus further extending rehabilitation time and as such it is important that adequate protein (along with the appropriate timing and distribution of intake) be consumed. It is also important to consider that with a reduced intake of energy comes a reduced intake of essential micronutrients that could ultimately lead to deficiencies (not ideal when your body is trying to heal!)

 

What about inflammation?

Whilst acute inflammation may be a necessary process, chronic inflammation can cause irritation and pain and lead to tissue damage. In addition, the prolonged use of anti-inflammatory drugs can be immunosuppressive, thus where possible utilising dietary approaches to reduce inflammation, should be considered such as omega-3 (as found in marine sources such as oily fish). In particular, it is important that your ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 intake (generally found in processed foods, vegetable and seed oils) is balanced. At present, specifically in the Western diet, individuals tend to consume more foods that contain omega-6 fatty acids, which can actually lead to inflammation, and insufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

 

Don’t forget the plants!

There is also increasing interest and consideration in the role that plant-derived polyphenols play in reducing inflammation. Foods high in polyphenols include green tea, catechins and curcumin (the component in Turmeric which is responsible for the yellow colour). However, it should be noted that a large amount of green tea must be consumed in order to obtain a therapeutic benefit (i.e. eight cups of strong green tea) which may cause nausea and disrupt sleep in those whom are sensitive to caffeine. Additionally, Curcumin is poorly absorbed by the body and thus must be consumed with another nutrient such as piperine (found in black pepper) to allow for adequate absorption.

And now onto my research (PhD in Nutrition and Collagen Synthesis)…
Collagen is the main protein found in tendons and ligaments and the research around how the intake of certain nutrients (taken at the right time around exercise) can improve the health and repair/regeneration of tendons and ligaments is in its infancy. Therefore, I am exploring the cutting edge of this space and attempting to determine whether different types of protein (with different amino acid contents) can enhance the different tissues – much like we know that whey protein has an influence on MPS.

 

Rebekah Alcock
Accredited practicing deititian
Recover Sports Medicine


If you would like to make an appointment to see our Accredited Practicing Dietitian, please call us on 1300 858 774 or email contact@recoversportsmed.com.au

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