“Let the food be thy medicine, let the medicine be thy food.”
Whether you are a pro athlete or a weekend warrior—injuries happen. Although your body is a smart machine, extra help from your side will speed up your injury recovery and healing process. And this is what we want, right? To be active again, keep running and go racing. This extra help starts with adjusting and supplementing your nutrition.
Stage 1 – Inflammation
This process is crucial—inflammation protects your injury from further damage. However, worsening the inflammation will lead to more tissue damage and significant slowing down of the healing process. The usual time frame for your acute symptoms to settle is 2 to 4 days post-injury, but this can vary depending on how you treat your injury.
For this stage, your objective is to avoid products that worsen inflammation – like trans-fats, omega-6 rich vegetable oils and saturated fats.
An anti-inflammatory diet is high in monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fats. To balance your 6:3 ratio—add 3-9 grams of fish oil daily. Increase intake of olive oil, flax oil, mixed nuts and seeds, and avocado. These foods will balance out saturated fats naturally present in your protein sources.
Certain herbs and spices like turmeric, garlic, pineapple, cocoa, tea and blueberries can help with managing inflammation. You can always get them via supplementation, but I recommend to eat whole foods if possible. You don’t have to eat all at once!
Stage 2 – Repair
This phase commonly lasts up to six weeks post-injury when your body is busy laying down new soft tissue.This phase commonly lasts up to six weeks post-injury when your body is busy laying down new soft tissue.
- Protein intake for men: 2 palms; for women: 1 palm of protein with each meal. Protein sources: lean meat, lean dairy, eggs, vegetarian protein or supplement.
- Carbohydrate intake: Fruits and vegetables: 1-2 fists of veggies or fruit each meal. Starch for men: 2 golf balls; for women: 1 golf ball of minimally processed carbs with each meal. Carbohydrate sources: whole oats, yam, beans, whole grain rice, quinoa, etc.
- Fat intake for men: 2 thumbs; for women: 1 thumb. Fat sources: avocado, olive oil, mixed nuts, flax seeds, 3-9g of fish oil.
Stage 3 – Remodelling
At the sixth week, post-soft tissue injury, your healing tissue is reasonably mature but still not strong enough to bear the load that was adequate before the injury.
When your body detects that a repaired structure is still weaker than necessary, it will automatically stimulate additional new tissue to help strengthen and support the healing tissue, until it meets the demands of your normal exercise or physical function. This is the remodeling phase in action. It may last anywhere between six weeks and up to three months.
Vitamin A controls early inflammation process, boosts immune system, and helps with collagen formation which you need for tissue repair.
Vitamin C plays an important role in collagen synthesis, as it helps form bonds between strands of collagen fiber. With vitamin C deficiencies, collagen fibers are formed abnormally and fibrous tissue is weak with poor adhesion.
Copper is a mineral that works together with Vitamin C in elastin formation and tissue strengthening.
Zinc plays role in cell division, protein synthesis and works with body enzymes. These processes are crucial for tissue regeneration and remodeling. Zinc is the most common mineral deficiency among athletes.
Calcium and iron are important for bone health and injury prevention. It is better to be consumed before the injury happens. Get enough of these two from whole foods rather than supplements.
Here is a summary of the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin A – 10,000 IU/day for 2-4 weeks post-injury
- Vitamin C – 1000-2000mg/day for 2-4 weeks post-injury
- Copper – 2-4mg/day for 2-4 weeks post-injury
- Zinc – 15-30mg/day for 2-4 weeks post-injury
If you get injured often, ask your coach or a sports doctor for advice. Respect your body and respect the pain. Don’t think that pushing through and ignoring the injury will make it go away. The faster and better you act, the easier the healing process will be.
About Olya: “I count my blessings every Sunday night, sitting on a small balcony overlooking the beautiful neighborhoods in the greenest area in Kuala Lumpur. I plan new travels almost every day, as the world is such an amazing place if you were to see through its beauty. I consider myself a lucky person and am convinced I did something good in my previous lives.“I count my blessings every Sunday night, sitting on a small balcony overlooking the beautiful neighborhoods in the greenest area in Kuala Lumpur. I plan new travels almost every day, as the world is such an amazing place if you were to see through its beauty. I consider myself a lucky person and am convinced I did something good in my previous lives. Running and yoga are my two biggest passions. I am the happiest person to have a full-time job teaching it and sharing what I learned over the years. I am the head coach of Skechers Running Academy and a freelance yoga teacher. I am driven by my students’ success and honored to contribute into the health industry in the country I call home for 4 years now. I blog on www.runyogamakan.com about running, yoga and food.” – Coach Olya Kudryavtseva