Do you find yourself sidelined from injury more than you’d like? Nutrition may play a bigger role than you realize. Excellent nutrition aids recovery and healing in the hours and days after training, helping us avoid injury the next time we hit the gym. 3 things to think about:
1) Adequate Energy is needed to make repairs after training. After a strenuous workout, your body will replace depleted glycogen stores in muscle and if carbohydrates aren’t available, protein can be used in a process called gluconeogenesis. Consider whether you’re getting too few calories and whether you’re getting adequate carbohydrates and protein around your workouts to protect soft tissues and allow your body to adequately repair tissues after training.1
2) Micronutrients are called “micro” because they’re needed in small quantities relative to macros, but they’re necessary for macros to do their work. They’re like the cog in the gear wheel or the key in the padlock. It’s best to get micronutrients from a wide variety of nutritious foods to avoid weakness and fatigue and to keep bones strong. Here are a couple of highlights:
Vitamin D is critical for bone health. If you have a history of strains, sprains, stress fractures, other joint or bone injuries, pain or weakness, you may need to be assessed by your physician for vitamin D deficiency. Foods that have vitamin D? It’s a little difficult to get from diet, but fish oil, salmon, tuna and foods fortified with vitamin D like some dairy and some orange juice are sources for this critical micronutrient.
Calcium plays several important roles in the body, and when we don’t have enough in circulation, our body will take calcium from our bones to fill the gap. If you’ve eliminated dairy from your diet, you might consider getting calcium from other sources like dark leafy greens, sardines, soy beans, fortified cereals and enriched grains.1
Antioxidants: Antioxidants protect our cells, including our DNA, from oxidation. When we exercise, we can increase our oxygen consumption as much as 10 to 15 times our normal respiration and it’s been suggested that this can create more oxidative stress on cells. More research is needed, but the safest way for athletes to get adequate antioxidants is to eat foods high in them like berries (especially Amla, blueberries, bilberries, goji berries, blackberries), espresso beans, green tea, dark chocolate and many herbs and spices.2
3) Post-workout inflammation: Inflammation is normal in muscle building, but too much inflammation isn’t good and can result in delayed-onset muscle soreness (a.k.a. that pain that you have getting out of bed two days after a workout). To help with recovery, get plenty of anti-inflammatory foods in your diet, like fish, nuts, seeds and avocados, and limit inflammatory foods like junk food (refined sugars, fried food and refined grains), processed meats and trans fats. Certain herbs and spices like curcumin (turmeric), ginger and garlic have been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits as well.1
1. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116,(3):501-528.
2. MH Carlsen, BL Halvorsen, K Holte, S, SK Bohn, S Dragland, L Sampson, C Willey, H Senoo, Y Umezono, C Sanada, I Barikmo, N Berhe, WC Willett, KM Phillips, DR Jacobs Jr, R Blomhoff. The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. Nutr J. 2010; 9: 3.