Nutrition in Injuries and Recovery
What are the goals of nutrition intervention in injury?
- Support muscle protein synthesis
- Preserve muscle mass
- Maintain energy balance
- Prevent gain of body fat
Whether from surgery or injury, there are three main stages to tissue recovery:
All stages require optimal nutrition to speed up tissue recovery. Nutrition from food serves as the building blocks for your immune response to tissue injury, and in the repair and building of your muscle. During injury recovery, your body is very metabolically active and requires a balance of energy, protein, and other nutrients at specific stages. Finding this delicate balance is crucial, and will benefit from the following recommendations:
1. Inflammation stage (First 1-2 weeks)
- Certainly, aim to meet your protein requirements, and have nutrient-dense sources of carbohydrates in moderation. You want to ensure your immune system has the energy and building blocks to allow for the inflammation process to occur appropriately.
- While inflammation is an important and natural part of injury recovery, too much can cause excess damage. Try incorporating some anti-inflammatory fats from olive oil, avocados, fatty fish, omega-3 supplements, flax oil (or ground flax), mixed nuts/seeds.
- Use herbs and spices. For example, curcumin found in turmeric has proven anti-inflammatory properties.
- Add other anti-inflammatory mediating foods such as vegetables and fruits (Ex berries), green tea, and cocoa.
- Reduce pro-inflammatory foods such as: processed foods high in saturated fat. Certain vegetable oils (Ex. corn, sunflower, safflower, soybean), and foods with trans-fats.
2. Proliferation and Remodeling Stage (2-4 weeks)
- Energy intake is crucial to maintain energy balance, preserve muscle mass, and support muscle protein synthesis. For example, your metabolism increases by 15-50%, so your daily energy needs are actually higher than normal at rest. Ensuring adequate total energy from food allows the protein from food to assist in tissue repair and muscle building.
- Protein needs may be as high as 1.6-2.5 grams per kilogram body weight per day, depending on the phase of the injury. Eat adequate protein from minimally processed meats, legumes, eggs, plant-based proteins, and protein supplements.
- Eat quality carbs – You may need fewer than normal, given the higher intake of calories from protein. So make sure you choose minimally processed carbs like oats, barley, quinoa, whole grain rice, whole grain or sprouted bread.
- Balance dietary fat – About 1/3 from saturated, 1/3 from monounsaturated, and 1/3 from polyunsaturated.
- Add colour to your plate – Make half your plate fruits and vegetables, and focus on variety through choosing a colourful mix.
Nutrition in Mental Alertness
Staying alert is another area where nutrition plays a big role. Here are a few tips:
- Ensure you drink enough water each day. A good goal would be 2-3L. Research shows that dehydration can contribute to a decrease in mental alertness. Every biochemical reaction that takes place in your body (including those of metabolism, and neural function) requires water. Try starting your day off right by linking an existing habit (Ex. Brushing your teeth), with having that first glass of water.
- Ensure appropriate timing of meals and snacks to promote energy throughout the day, and in exercise. Having nutrient-dense snacks are a great way to help you meet nutrition requirements, and keep your energy and alertness stable throughout the day. This strategy also helps keep the balance of hunger and satiety hormones at an even keel, impacting energy and alertness.
- Keep your gut healthy by enjoying lots of fibre-rich foods, prebiotics, and probiotics. Several hormones produced in the gut can enter the brain, and influence cognitive ability. This link between the brain and the gut is a growing area of research, and since most Canadian’s are not meeting their daily fibre requirements, here is just one more reason to increase intake of whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
- Nutrition in Injury – Your body undergoes three stages of recovery, and nutrition has a unique role in each. Help your body recover by ensuring adequate nutrition based on the strategies above to ensure optimal tissue repair and recovery.
- Nutrition in Mental Alertness – Proper hydration, adequate fibre, and balanced meal and snack timing are just a few nutrition aspects that can help you boost your energy and alertness
If you are looking for support in recovering from an injury or would like to discuss strategies at increasing your energy and alertness through nutrition, try the strategies above to get started. Or better, book an appointment and we can go a bit deeper and apply these strategies to your unique needs.
Until then, stay nourished, hydrated, and healthy! If you have questions about nutrition and would like a professional opinion, call or text today 403.229.0129 or email me here.