Injury Nutrition

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Injuries happen. Nutrition can play a huge role in speeding up the process of recovery. Most clients don’t know how to use nutrition to improve healing. Following the tips below can help get athletes back to training faster as well as improve the recovery process as a whole.

Calorie Intake
A common mistake that clients tend to make once they’ve sustained an injury is to limit their intake of calories. They believe that since they can no longer train as hard as prior to recovery, their calorie needs decrease. This could not be farther from the truth. During acute energy BMR can increase anywhere from 15% to 50%, which raises energy needs significantly. Therefore, not meeting these energy needs during the recovery process can prevent the injury from healing.

The first stage of the healing process is inflammation, which should last between 2-3 weeks. Anti-inflammatory foods can speed of this process significantly.

Omega-3 fatty acids and mono-saturated fatty acids are considered the best anti-inflammatory foods. These foods include fatty fish, olive oil, avocados, flax seed and mixed nuts. A fish oil supplement daily is also recommended during the first few weeks of recovery.

Vitamin A acts to enhance and support early inflammation during injury. High vitamin A foods include sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, winter squashes, lettuce, dried apricots, cantaloupe, bell peppers, fish, liver, and tropical fruits.

Dietary Herbs
Many dietary herbs have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and should be added to the diet during the first 2-3 weeks of injury recovery. These include garlic, curcumin (found in curry powder and in turmeric) and bromelain (found in pineapple).

Fish oil → 3-9g daily
Vitamin A → 10,000 IU daily for the first 1-2 weeks post-injury
Curcumin → 7 tbsps a day of powder or 400-600mg in supplement form
Garlic → 2-4 cloves a day
Bromelain → 2 cups of pineapple a day or 500-1000mg in supplement form

Collagen Formation
Image result for collagen formationThe second and third stages of healing allow damaged tissues to be removed and replaced by collagen to form scar tissue.

During this stage is it necessary to consume enough protein. Protein is essential for building new tissues and muscle fibers as well as repairing damaged ones.
There are also some vitamins and minerals that will speed of these stages of recovery. This includes vitamin C, copper, and zinc.
Vitamin C plays an important role in collagen synthesis as it assists the formation of bonds between strands of collagen fiber. If not enough vitamin C is consumed, collagen fibers will form abnormally, and fibrous tissue will become weak. In other words, you will weaker than before and more likely to re-injure the same area. High vitamin C foods include bell peppers, dark leafy greens, kiwi fruit, broccoli, berries, and citrus fruits.
Copper works with vitamin C to strengthen connective tissue and zinc plays a role in protein synthesis.

Vitamin C → 1-2 g/day
Copper → 2-4 mg/day
Zinc → 15-30 mg/day

Things to avoid
A diet high in omega-6 and saturated fats is considered pro-inflammatory and should be avoided during the first few weeks of recovery. Vitamin E may also slow down the process of healing, and supplementation should be avoided during period of recovery.


Kat Elvidge is a Pro Energy Nutritionist with a BASc in Biology from Dalhousie University and a Specialist in Fitness Nutrition through the International Sports Science Association (ISSA). She is also a CrossFit Coach at CrossFit Ironstone in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
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