Speed Up Injury Healing by Eating These Recovery Foods
As a runner, getting hurt sucks. Whether you have just recently gotten hurt or you have been babying a nagging injury for a while now, it can be disheartening and frustrating when you can’t train as hard or as long as you wish.
Depending on the injury, research has shown that icing, message, compression, rest, strength work, and elevation are all successful treatments for injuries; however, to completely heal an injury time off is almost always a necessary element.
But, is there anything you can do nutritionally during this “waiting period” to help decrease healing time and get back on the run?
YES! Your body is built to heal from the inside out and nutrition plays a dynamic role in the healing of injuries. If you provide the right foods and nutrients to your body during the time of healing the duration of an injury can be shortened.
Malnutrition and its impact on running injuries
Research has shown that malnutrition can delay wound healing.
Malnutrition is defined as a state of nutrient deficiency or excess. Usually, when we think of being malnourished, we often picture starving children in a third world country. Unfortunately, some runners are actually training in a state of malnutrition without even knowing it, which could be delaying your healing process. This is happening for a couple of reasons:
First, if your weekly mileage requires you to run twice a day, it can be difficult replenish the nutrients used or lost during a run before your next run, depleting more vital nutrients. This type of training can leave you in a state of malnutrition.
Second, the quality of the foods most average runners consume is drastically decreasing and the consumption of processed food is rapidly increasing. Even if you are consuming enough calories (or even too many calories and consequently putting on weight), there is a good chance that the calories are not as nutrient dense as your body needs; again, leaving your body in a state of malnutrition.
Your body is incredibly resilient, and can often run surprisingly well, even in a malnourished state. This can often make you think that you’re eating healthy and providing your body with the nutrients it needs. However, when you get injured while training in a nutrient deficient state, the time it will take for the injury to heal and for you to get back to running will be prolonged.
Being diligent about nourishing your body with nutrient dense food on a daily basis will speed up your recovery and healing time. (Click to tweet)
Foods and nutrients that promote healing
If you happen to be fighting a nagging injury or have just recently gotten hurt, I suggest adding the following foods and nutrients to your diet to help get back on track with your training and allow your body to be at its best. Even if you do not currently have any aches or pains, adding these foods into your diet can help prepare your body for healing if you should happen to get hurt.
Foods rich vitamin C
Examples include: citrus, berries, kiwi, peppers and broccoli.
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin that your body does not have the ability to make, which means you need to consume it on a daily basis. Vitamin C plays an important role in the healing process by building new protein for the skin, scar tissue, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels.
Vitamin C also helps our bodies maintain cartilage and bone tissues. In addition to the healing properties, vitamin C offers internal protection against free radicals. Free radicals are molecules in our body that can cause significant damage and come from our external environment, such as the foods we eat, high intensity work outs (like running), and chemicals we are exposed to.
Foods Rich in Vitamin A
Examples include: carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash and spinach.
Vitamin A promotes the production of white blood cells in your body. White blood cells are the main “keepers of the injury”; they help fight off infection and viruses. Even if you don’t have a visual injury like an open wound, your body will still rely on the production of white blood cells to protect the injury and increase the rate of healing.
Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Examples include: salmon, flax seeds, and walnuts.
Many research studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids have the ability to reduce inflammation, so much so that other pain killers and drug may not be needed. Most of these studies have been conducted on individuals with rheumatoid arthritis or other cases of extreme inflammation. The results of these numerous studies indicate that high quality omega-3s will reduce inflammation from an injury or daily run. Reducing the swelling and inflammation around an injury will reduce the pain you may be experiencing and promote healing!
Foods Rich in Zinc
Examples include: oysters, nuts, seeds and chicken.
Every single tissue in your body contains zinc; therefore, it becomes very important in the healing process of any injury. Zinc will help your body use the fats and proteins you consume to promote growth and healing of the injured tissue. Zinc will also help keep your immune system strong, much like vitamin A, which will protect you from other infections or viruses.
Foods Rich in Protein
Examples include: grass feed beef, chicken, and eggs.
An injury to the body automatically increases the body’s demand for protein. Protein is required in multiple processes that take place as soon as the injury happens and through the injury recovery time. How quickly and how well the injury heals can largely depend on consuming adequate amounts of high quality protein. Therefore, it is essential that runners who are hurt shift their diet from a high carbohydrate to high protein.
With races to train for and PR’s to hit, getting injured or staying injured is simply not an option for most of us. If you are plagued by an old injury, just recently injured, or looking to prevent an injury, add these foods into your diet to give your body what it needs to protect, heal, repair, and recover as quickly as possible.
Collier, James. “Nutrition And Wound Healing.” Nutrition And Wound Healing. Web. 23 May 2012.
Geusens, Piet, Carine Wouters, Jos Nijs, Yebin Jiang, and Jan Dequeker. “Long-term Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation in Active Rheumatoid Arthritis.”Arthritis & Rheumatism 37.6 (1994): 824-29. Print.
Haydock, David A. “Impaired Wound Healing in Surgical Patients with Varying Degrees of Malnutrition.” Impaired Wound Healing in Surgical Patients with Varying Degrees of Malnutrition. Journal of Parenteral & Enteral Nutrition. Web. 23 May 2012.
Molnar, Joseph Andrew. Nutrition and Wound Healing. Boca Raton: CRC/Taylor & Francis, 2007. Print.