Injury is one of the hazards of participating in sports or any physical activity. If you are unfortunate enough to have an injury that requires immobilization, you may be able to boost the healing process with proper nutrition.
Being adequately fueled and avoiding any nutrient deficiencies is the most important consideration, but, as an athlete, avoiding a calorie surplus is also important. The best way to accomplish this balance is by eating high-quality foods at a calorie level that has been adjusted for the decrease in physical activity. Increased protein intake has been shown to aid in healing injuries requiring immobilization, but evidence is lacking to show benefit in muscle tissue injuries that do not. Supplements of amino acids or any other nutrient are only necessary if there is a nutrient deficiency.
A sample day for an average male athlete who has decreased his activity due to an injury requiring immobilization might be:
6 Servings of vegetables
4 Servings of fruit
10oz of lean protein (perferrably including 2 eggs)
5 Servings of whole grains
Athletes often read or hear about nutrient supplementation that may aid in recovery (such as leucine, n-3FA, curcumin, etc.), but the jury is still out on the efficacy and safety of most of them; some have even been shown to cause harm. The best advice is the tried-and-true, albeit less sexy: eat healthy, minimally processed foods, with most of your intake coming from vegetables, fruits and whole grains with some lean protein and healthy fats included.
Author: Janet Carter, MS, RD, LD