Nutrition for Recovery
Following a soft tissue injury such as an ankle sprain or hamstring tear, or post-surgery such as ACL reconstruction or rotator cuff repair most of us will primarily focus on physical recovery using the R.I.C.E principles (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). While this is useful for reducing pain and inflammation in the initial stages, it is important that we do not miss out on the opportunity to speed up and improve our recovery through optimising our nutrition. This can be done by providing your body with the right fuel required for recovery, specific to the stage of healing that your body is in.
There are three different stages that our body will go through during recovery:
1) Inflammatory Phase: This is characterised by pain, swelling, redness and heat. In this phase healing chemicals are drawn to the affected area. (3days – 3 weeks)
2) Proliferation Phase: This is where damaged tissue is removed and replaced with new blood supply and temporary tissue. (2weeks – 6months)
3) Remodelling Phase: Temporary tissue is removed and replaced with permanent, stronger tissue. (up to 2 years post injury)
Inflammation is a critical part of the recovery process, however too much inflammation can have negative effects such as joint stiffness, muscle wasting and pain. While the R.I.C.E principles can be used in the phase, nutrition strategies can also be used to help manage inflammation. These include:
Eating more anti-inflammatory foods such as:
- Fish / Fish Oils
- Olive/ Flax oil or ground flax
- Mixed nuts and seeds
- Dark Chocolate/Cocoa
Eating fewer pro-inflammatory foods such as:
- Processed Meats
- Trans-fats like vegetable oils
- Fried food
- Sugar sweetened beverages
- Refined carbohydrates -white bread, pasta, white rice.
Proliferation and Remodelling Phases:
During these phases actively levels will generally start to increase as we engage in rehabilitation and aim to return to normal function. Because the body is actively building new tissue metabolism can increase by between 15 & 50%, meaning it will require less calories that it would on a heavy training day but more than you would need while sedentary. It is important to make sure you are getting enough of the right foods to fuel recovery it these phases, this will include:
Proteins: approx 1g per KG bodyweight per day, including minimally processed meats, legumes, eggs, plant-based proteins, or protein supplements.
Carbohydrates: approx. 5g per KG bodyweight per day, including minimally processed carbs such as whole oats, whole grain rice, sprouted grain breads, quinoa
Fats: approx 1/3 saturated, 1/3 monounsaturated, 1/3 polyunsaturated which are important for essential vitamins such as A,D,E and K
Vegetables: A diverse mix of fruit and vegetables, approx. 1-2 fists.
Supplementing with the following for 2-4 weeks post injury may also be beneficial:
Vitamin A: 10,000IU per day
Vitamin C: 1-2g per day
Copper: 2-4mg per day
Zinc: 15-30mg per day