Injuries are a huge bummer. Whether your injury is from exercise or an accident during everyday activity, you can be down for the count for weeks. As you probably know, the normal routine for injury recovery is R.I.C.E or rest, ice, compression and elevation, but did you know nutrition can play a big role in helping your body recover? It’s true! There are actually multiple stages to an injury and what you eat during those stages can either support or hinder your recovery process. Here are some nutritional tips that will help your body heal quicker and easier. There are 4 stages of Injury Recovery.
Stage 1 – Coagulation (Day 1-2) Stopping the bleeding
Stages 2 – Inflammation (up to 5 days post injury) Swelling, Pain, Redness
Stage 3 – Migration/Proliferation (4 days -21 days post injury) Tissue Rebuilding
Stage 4 – Remodeling Phase (5 days -2 years) Depending on soft tissue or bone.
The most crucial for nutrition are Stages 2 and 3 which we will discuss below.
Stage One – Coagulation (Day 1-2) Stopping the bleeding
This is the first stage of injury. Even though this is the first stage the next stage is the best time to start implementing anti-inflammatory foods. So this is the time to have someone go shopping for you.
NSAIDS – or non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, have some side effects such as GI issues, bleeding etc. They are effective at managing pain to help with moving the joint and get blood flow to the area. Doctors usually prescribe these. The problem is the tissue heals slower. It’s best to have these in the acute phase up to 5 days post injury.
Stages Two – Inflammation (up to 5 days post injury) Swelling, Pain, Redness
During Stage 2 – Inflammation can slow blood flow and decrease recovery rate and too much can increase total tissue damage and slow repair.
The injury site reddens and swells because your body is bringing healing fluids to the area. But if your body causes the injured area to swell too much, it can cause more damage. Hence the reason we use ice. Here are some nutritional ideas that will help regulate swelling and inflammation to eat every day:
- Eat Anti-inflammatory Foods – 3-9 g of Healthy fats and oils depending on body size. These include fish oil, olive oil, avocado, flax oil, fish, and nuts. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies such as: beets, plenty of dark leafy greens, cucumber, celery, grapes, and berries.
- Limit Pro–inflammation Foods – Processed foods that are high in saturated fat, processed meats, foods high in sugar, hydrogenated oils, packaged foods. Vegetable oils: corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil. Trans fats: fast food and candy.
- Use Inflammation Managing Herbs and Spices – Garlic (2-4 whole cloves daily), turmeric (1tsp per day) and/or curry powder, bromelain (1 cup pineapple/day or 500-1000mg daily) which is found in pineapple, green tea, citrus, cloves, cinnamon, oregano, ginger, rosemary, and sage. Last you can include Boswellia supplement (300mg 3x/day).
Supplements for injury repair will have all of these in them. For the best repair, you must have it every day. So the easiest is in pill form vs. eating it every day.
Stage Three – Migration/Proliferation (4 days -21 days post injury) Tissue Rebuilding
In Stage two, the body begins to rebuild the tissue that’s been damaged. During stage three, strong permanent tissue takes the place of temporary tissue. In stages two and three, your metabolism increases and your body needs food that will help it energize. You want to eat about every 3-4 hours.
- Eat Enough Protein – Lean meats, beans, and eggs. Plant-based proteins such as nuts, quinoa, buckwheat, and soy. It’s about 1gram/lbs or 1 palm for women and 2 palms for men.
- Eat Diversely – Eat a range of fruits and veggies and a variety of different colored veggies. Different colors mean different vitamins and minerals that will help your body thrive. 1 to 2 fists with each meal.
- Eat Good Carbs – Whole grains rather than processed grains. Whole grains still have fiber and vitamins that your body needs while processed grains (such as flower) have had much of the nutrition milled out of them. Whole grains can be whole wheat, oats, barley, and rice. Also reach for sprouted grain breads vs. white breads. You want to eat less than you possibly would with training. Men it’s about 2 golf balls, women 1 golf ball.
- Good Post Injury Supplements – Take healthy doses of Vitamin C (2,ooo mg/day for 3 weeks) Vitamin A, (10,000 iu/day for 3 weeks, Copper (4mg/day for 3 weeks), and Zinc (30 mg/day for 3 weeks). If you are deficient in any of these, injuries are more likely. If any of these are limiting, healing will be slow. But it’s important to note that you don’t have to supplement with all of them. These four are the most important.
- Fat Intake: Eat avocado, olive oil, or mixed nuts. The healthy amount for women is about 1 thumb size per serving, and about two thumb size for men.
- Arginine (7g), Glutamine (7g), and HMB(1.5-2g) are amino acids that are all proven to help with recovery. They are also sold as exercise recovery. You can find them all in Muscle Armor. You can take these 2x per day .
Chronic Pain –
What if you have chronic pain that is years out? These below have been proven to show improvements.
- Glucosamine -chondroiton -hyaluronic acid: Have been shown to be effective in osteoarthritis but not in acute injury.
- Natural eggshell membrane: (Not in hard boiled eggs.) There is a new study showing significant reductions in joint pain and increase range of motion in clinical and active people. Recommended dose: 500mg/day.
Injuries are no fun, but with good nutrition and supplement practices, your body will be much better equipped with the tools that help it rebuild. Remember to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest while injured. It’s the perfect time to catch up on that fun murder mystery series gathering dust on the shelf! Stay healthy out there!
*Our data has come from multiple sources including Precision Nutrition. To read more about each individual supplement and their benefits check out the videos from Precision Nutrition Injury Recovery.