Injuries happen to any athlete trying to push his or her limits, or to anyone trying to surpass the boundaries of their sport. The human body has an incredible ability to heal itself, but in order to reach its full potential the body must be supplied with the right raw materials.
The nutritional guidelines for someone recovering from an injury are quite different from those recommended for a healthy, high-performing individual. Certain macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat) play a more vital role during an injury period, while others may need to be eliminated completely. Additionally, understanding our body’s energy balance during an injury period helps to dial in our macronutrient sweet spot, getting you off the couch faster and on the road to returning to peak fitness. Follow these guidelines for fast recovery:
Find Your Caloric Sweet Spot
Caloric requirements can increase from 15 to 50 percent depending on the severity of the injury. If you are eating based on hunger alone during recovery, there is a good chance that you will be under-eating, which can lead to a reduction in lean mass, improper healing, and slow progress in recovery.
It is best to ensure you consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Protein is essential for tissue repair, especially under times of stress.
You need to get the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the range of 3-1 to 1-1. Once dietary omega-6 intake is reduced, it is recommended that injured athletes supplement with fish oil, anywhere from 3 to 9 grams daily. Healthy sources of fish oil include salmon oil, krill oil, and sardine oil.
Adequate carbohydrates (of the unprocessed kind) should be consumed during times of injury to help stabilize insulin concentrations. Insulin is an anabolic hormone and may have a positive effect on wound healing.
High dose supplementation of amino acids has a powerful effect on the healing process. The recommendation for injured athletes is 14 grams of glutamine, 14 grams of arginine, and 3 grams of HMB (hydroxy-methylbutyrate, a chemical produced when the body breaks down leucine, one of the building blocks of protein) divided into two equal doses per day (two servings of 7 grams, 7 grams, and 1.5 grams, respectively).
Zinc is required for over 300 enzymes in the body and plays a major role in cell division, protein synthesis, and DNA synthesis. The recommended dose is 15 to 30 milligrams per day, usually taken on an empty stomach one hour prior to bed. Do not exceed 30 milligrams per day, as levels of zinc above this can cause connective tissue problems.
Many of the positive effects of turmeric have been attributed to its active ingredient curcumin, a potent antioxidant. Consume 2 to 6 grams of a curcumin supplement per day for optimal recovery.
Supplemental doses of vitamin E have actually been shown to slow the healing process. It is recommended that you suspend the intake of any high dose vitamin E supplements during an injury period.
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