Recently due to a nagging lower-leg injury my running had to take a break. I was left with a lot of time on my hands to research ways to make my injury heal faster. Yes I did physio, acupuncture, massage and started cross training with low impact sports but mostly I tried to keep my diet on track. I wanted to pump my body with foods that would increase my body’s healing capacities. Your body is built to heal and eating foods that aid in your recovery are essential in order to shorten your injury time.
Many people believe that when you don’t exercise you don’t need the same nutrients in your body as when you were exercising. A major factor is athletes think they will get fat or slower if they eat during injury breaks BUT this is not the case! Good nutrition is a major factor on enhancing your recovery and getting you back on track!
The worst mistake you can make is drastically decreasing the amount you eat. Your body needs food to heal. When your body doesn’t get enough food to meet all of its maintenance and energy needs, it will enter a breakdown state. This means your muscles begin eating themselves to gain the much-needed energy. This compromises your body’s ability to repair muscle damage. It slows muscle recovery and can ultimately decrease your muscle tissue, delay recovery time and lead to more injuries in the future.
So what should you eat? Firstly don’t turn to junk food or processed foods. This includes chips, lollies, alcohol, takeaways and high saturated/sugar foods. This will make you feel better for about twenty minutes! all the while you take in the fact you cannot exercise and overall these foods will do nothing for your injury. You need to include foods that will not only provide your body with the energy it needs but also nourish it. I have made a list of foods below to show you what your diet should be made of:
- Foods rich vitamin C – Vitamin C plays an important role in your healing process. Vitamin C builds collagen, a structural part of your bones, connective tissues, and blood vessels. When you are injured, collagen glues the injured area back together. Examples include: citrus fruits, kiwifruit and berries
- Foods Rich in Vitamin A – Vitamin A promotes the production of white blood cells in your body that help fight off an infection and viruses. Your body uses this vitamin to make new skin and other tissues that are vital to your healing. Examples include: sunflower seeds, carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach. Try for two servings of leafy greens and yellow/orange vegetables every day.
- Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Research studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids have the ability to reduce inflammation. Reducing inflammation around your injury will reduce your pain and promote healing therefore getting you back on your feet faster! Examples include: salmon, flax seeds, and walnuts.
- Foods Rich in Zinc – Zinc helps your body use the fats and proteins you consume to promote growth and healing of your injured tissue. Zinc will also help keep your immune system strong. Examples include: nuts, seeds, and chicken.
- Foods Rich in Antioxidants – Free radicals are the toxins that are roaming around our body, especially when we sustain a running injury. They make us weaker by taking from our healthy cells. Eating a diet high in antioxidants, that stop free radicals forming will aid in your recovery process. Examples include: blueberries, tart cherries, prunes, turmeric, ginger, coffee.
- Foods Rich in Protein – An injury to the body automatically increases the body’s demand for protein. Protein is essential to build back up Examples include: beef, chicken, turkey, eggs, and yogurt.
- Calcium – Bone strains and stress fractures are quite common in running. Calcium is responsible for your bone health. By having 3 servings of low-fat or non-fat dairy foods per day, you can avoid the risk of bone injuries. Examples include: Low fat and high-fat dairy foods as well as supplementation.
Below I have created an injury bliss ball that includes lots of energy, vitamin C, fat, antioxidants, protein and zinc to help with your recovery. They are also very tasty and will definitely stop you going for those unhealthy foods. Whip up a batch and when you are feeling hungry just grab one or two from the fridge!
Injury Bliss Balls: (makes about 15)
- ¼ C Dates
- ¼ C Dried Cranberries
- 2t Of Peanut Butter
- 1-2 Cubes Of Dried Ginger
- 2 Squares Of Dark Chocolate
- 3t Coconut Oil
- 1t Orange juice + Orange Zest
- Coconut (shredded) for serving
- Whizz up all ingredients in a food processor until blended. (if to sticky add in more dates, if too dry add in more oil)
- Role into balls 2cm balls
- Roles balls in coconut
- Eat fresh or keep in fridge until needed.
Rather than shaping up your diet when you get injured, strive to maintain a high-quality food intake every day. It is easier to prevent injuries than dealing with them once they happen! If you are currently injured and need help getting your diet on track feel free to email me on nutrition@NZtrailrun.com