Healing after injury

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It’s not just about ice, rest and rehabilitation. What you eat can help you recover from injury faster.

Did you know eating eggs for breakfast can help you recover from a sprained ankle? Science now shows getting back on your feet faster after an injury is about more than the right physiotherapy and rehabilitation sessions; eating right can speed your healing.

Bronwen Lundy, performance nutritionist at the English Institute of Sport (EIS) and nutrition specialist for the British Olympic Association’s Intensive Rehabilitation Unit says as more is now known about the recovery process, we can work on the ways nutrition can aid healing. Ideally, consult a specialist for a diet plan, as what you should eat or take as a supplement depends on your injury. Here’s how a targeted diet can boost recovery.

Repairing soft tissue

Soft tissue injuries, such as muscle and skin damage, could be helped by increasing your protein intake slightly to support new cell growth and repair, says performance nutritionist with the EIS, Alex Popple. ‘How much you should have depends on your size and the extent of the damage,’ he says. But, for example, you could have two eggs for breakfast, rather than one, or one and a half chicken breasts at dinner, rather than one. ‘Make sure it’s good-quality protein, ratherthan bacon and burgers!’ he adds.

Boosting micronutrients

Key micronutrients, such as zinc, iron and magnesium, are important for the healing and formation of new cells after injury. These micronutrient and protein demands can be met by including red meat, milk, shellfish, eggs, nuts and seeds in your daily diet,’ says Popple.

Supporting bones

Increasing your vitamin D and calcium intake can help recovery from bone damage, such as fractures, and boost bone strength, says Popple. If you struggle to get exposure to sunlight every day for production of vitamin D, a supplement could help, but always consult your GP. ‘This can be especially good for women who do a lot of endurance sport, to help bone strength,’ he adds.  ‘As for calcium, having at least three servings of low-fat dairy products per day, for example milk, yoghurt and cheese, will help keep calcium intake up,’ says Popple. However, he stresses if you need surgery or further treatment for your injury, it’s crucial to talk to your GP or specialist before taking any supplements.

Aiding joints

If you suffer arthritic conditions, tendonitis or have had a joint injury, you could benefit from a glucosamine sulphate supplement. Popple says this is a vital component used in the formation of the connective tissues around joints – cartilage, tendons and ligaments. ‘Adding an appropriate source from a supplement during recovery from such conditions or even during hard training could help reduce joint pain and maintain flexibility of the joint.’

Reducing inflammation

Inflammation is an indication of damage, so taking loads of anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, might not be the answer, warns Popple. Instead, up your intake of natural anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids, such as EPA and ALA. Olive oils, nuts and oily fish (such as salmon, sardines and mackerel) are the best sources.