Healthy Eating To Help Prevent Injury
Bella Hardy explores the connection between healthy eating, injury prevention, and recovery.
The truth of sports training or being active is that you will likely suffer from an injury at some point. However, most of us refuse to acknowledge that fact until we finally get hit where it hurts the most.
Sure, an athlete at the peak of their career may have access to world-class injury recovery programs, but what about everyone else?
Injury prevention is as important as treatment, and for that, you will need to put as much focus on nutrition as you do with training.
By supporting the body with the right quantities of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and the right combination of multivitamins and minerals, you can reduce the risk of suffering an injury and recover faster too.
In this guide, we are going to give you a roundup of how nutrition and injury prevention, and recovery are connected along with some tips on how to make your meals more nourishing.
How can macronutrients, micronutrients, and antioxidants prevent injury?
Proteins, carbohydrates, and fat
Carbohydrates are not only good for gaining energy, but also to avoid injury. On a theoretical level, carbohydrate intake plays a significant role in influencing injury-risk status.
Lack of carbohydrates leads to the fall of glycogen levels, which in turn can cause more muscle-protein to break down to compensate for our body's preferred choice of "fuel supply."
Chronic depletion of glycogen may lead to soft tissue damage and a decrease in strength as well. Glycogen is the primary fuel of exercise, but so is muscle protein as this research has concluded.
Since protein gets broken down in both endurance and strength training, an athlete's diet must contain enough quantity of protein for synthesis after exercise.
If you train regularly (especially for endurance), do not forget to consume enough amount of carbs and protein. Otherwise, you will experience loss of strength in the long run and may not be able to relieve pain, which are both potential causes for injury.
Fat gets a bad rep everywhere, but little do most people know that they need to have fat in their diet to create cell membranes healthy enough to resist damage during exercise.
Certain kinds of "good fat" can also prevent small injuries from turning into big ones as was observed in this study by the University of Buffalo.
Calcium and iron
At the micronutrient level, your body not getting enough vitamins and minerals can be linked to injuries. For example, research says that calcium intake plays an enormous role in contributing to bone density. Studies on animals have shown that deficiency of calcium is a cause of osteoporosis, which can be reversed by restoring calcium levels.
So, if calcium is essential for bone health, any deficiency may put you more at risk. An adult should take about 1000 to 1300 mg daily, but we usually consume only 500 to 700 mg every day.
You can avoid deficiency of calcium by consuming low or non-fat dairy foods three times daily, or take supplements.
The same can be said for iron deficiency as this study suggests. Low blood-iron reduces our muscle's oxidative potential, causing the production of more lactate that contributes to injuries. Without sufficient calcium and iron, your bones and muscles will be much more prone to fatigue.
Research has given us substantial evidence that suggests vitamins C and E play a vital role in injury prevention as they act as oxidants to counter muscle damage caused by an intense workout. During exercise, the contraction of our muscles is caused by oxygen forming ATP, also referred to as the aerobic energy pathway.
The downside of this process is that oxygen breakdown is not 100% clean, and causes an inevitable production of free radicals like hyperoxide, superoxide, and hydroxyls. The production of these oxygen free radicals increases with exercise, causing damage to the muscle cells through a process known as lipid peroxidation.
Lipid peroxidation and then triggers an inflammatory reaction to clean up the damaged cells, causing intense muscle soreness after training. We do not need to go into further details to explain how antioxidants can help you prevent injuries and recover faster.
Using food to prevent and heal injuries
It does not matter who you are – a professional athlete, a weekend warrior, or someone who likes to work out – the key to optimum performance lies in a nourishing diet. The essential training diet should be enough to:
How do you ensure having proper nutrition?
incorporate the following in your diet
This is one of the superfoods everyone should include in their diet. Spinach has copious amounts of iron that promote the reach of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles.
Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, and has been proven to minimize inflammation and promote a healthy immune system. Most people have a deficiency in omega-3, but consume far more omega-6 (poultry, eggs, nuts), causing an imbalance in the system.
This delicious fruit offers you the goodness of vitamins C, which is excellent for our immune system and post-exercise tissue repair. Vitamins C facilitates collagen production, which in turn provides our ligaments, tendons, and bones with the strength and flexibility needed to function efficiently.
Coconut water contains a high quantity of electrolytes, magnesium, and potassium to help in muscle recovery and relaxation of our nervous system. It can also keep the hydration at bay that might have made your tissues more susceptible to injury and tears.
These are rich in zinc, a mineral that is a major immune system supporter. With enough zinc, your body will be able to use protein to regenerate the muscles and tissues of your body.
Doctors recommend beets as they are an incredible source of dietary nitrate, which has shown some signs of improvement in athletic performance by reducing our body's need for oxygen. Have some beets before a workout, and you will be all set!
This delicious fruit contains an inflammatory phytonutrient called bromelain that has digestive aid and other healing properties. You can quickly make a smoothie out of the pineapple and incorporate it into your regular diet.
They contain amino acids such as L-lysine, L-glutamine, and L-Taurine, which are all needed for advanced immune support and post-workout muscle recovery.
Sure, lean meats, fish, and eggs are good sources of protein too, but supplements are easy to digest and require no preparation.
If you are on a specific diet, such as Keto Diet, you can take low-carb protein supplements such as one pointed out in this guide here.
Maintaining a steady nutritional balance can be a great way to make sure you reach your athletic goals and remain injury-free.
Give yourself an abundance of nutrients from a variety of fruits, veggies, raw nuts and seeds, whole grains, lean meats, and clean water.
The perfect athlete diet
Believe it or not, an athlete's diet is not ideally a whole lot different than what is recommended for regular folk. The total energy intake should come:
If you happen to be someone who works out strenuously for more than 60 to 90 minutes daily, you might have to increase your consumption of carbs to get 65 to 70% of your energy.
When to eat
And lastly, keep in mind that when you eat is as important as what you eat in the context of preventing and recovering from injuries. Most muscle and joint tissue damage that happens during a workout can be repaired within two hours after the workout if you eat during that time. So, be sure to dig into a nutritious meal after coming back from a workout.
Protein is the most crucial nutrient that facilitates post-exercise tissue repair. However, recent studies have shown that combining protein with carbohydrates is an even better option because carbs play a significant role in muscle protein synthesis as well as replenishing depleted muscle glycogen stores.
Is nutrition everything?
Nutrition is essential, but so is the right kind of physical therapy.
It is safe to conclude that proper nutrition is only one piece of the 'injury prevention and recovery' puzzle.
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About the Author
Bella Hardy is a creator and editor of Health Nerdy online publication. She is committed to providing all the necessary tools and information to make life healthy, wealthy, and more fun. She holds an MS in Nutrition and Metabolic Biology.