Injuries are common and often unavoidable in all kinds of sports. The link between poor nutrition and sports related injuries has been proven which is why preventive measures must be taken. No matter what happens, if you get neck pain or twist your ankle, the right nutrition can support your training and if injury occurs, assist their rehabilitation.
When muscles become excessively damaged, it triggers inflammatory hormones that favor the destruction of the tissue and the resistance to produce new tissue.
These inflammatory responses depend on the total muscle mass and they can be influenced by nutrition.
This is why the metabolic profile, nutritional profile and the body composition of an athlete can influence muscle recovery when there is an injury.
Some biological indicators of the nutritional status relate to injury (CPK, DHL, IGF-1, IL-6). These are also related to a reduction in testosterone and IGF-1. This, in combination with a body composition analysis tells us the nutritional status of an athlete and what’s needed to treat the injury successfully.
The body composition varies; during a long period of injury, there is a reduction of the general muscle mass and an increase of fat deposits, specifically in the area of the injury.
The main goal for athletes from a nutritional point of view, is to prevent injuries as much as possible through their diet. For this, it is essential that an athlete meets their daily requirements in energy and in nutrients.
Studies suggest that an energy intake of less than 30-35 kcal/kg of lean mass increases fatigue and the chance of becoming injured. Also, diets that are low in calories most of the time lack variety, which could mean a poor intake of required nutrients like the vital vitamins, antioxidants and minerals.
For example, some recent research showed that a Vitamin D deficiency is very common in world class athletes, and that it is associated with alterations in the strength and the muscular components and it also affects bone metabolism.
A poor diet with excess of junk food can promote inflammation. Unhealthy fats, like the ones found in pastries, vegetable oils, processed food and animal fat etc. all cause inflammation.
According to scientific evidence, the injury rate increases according to the hours that the athlete trains, and the risk of injuries is even higher when the competition and training sessions overlap with less than 72 hours between them.
In these situations, it is essential to take advantage of nutrition strategies for the optimal recovery, specifically of the muscular glycogen.
A consumption of a carbohydrate source (60g for every 2-3 hours) and protein (around 25g right after finishing training or competing) accompanied with the appropriate amounts of liquids to rehydrate is essential.
During the injury period, athletes and health practitioners tend to forget about nutrition. So if you experience neck pain, joint pain or any type of injury its crucial to look at things from a nutritional angle too.
As previously mentioned, it is important to maintain the body composition, but it is just as important to coordinate nutritional elements throughout the different stages of an injury.
If your injury has you tied to your sofa for at least five days, you will experience a loss of muscular strength and muscular atrophy. This is due to the increased destruction of the muscular protein and a decrease in the synthesis of protein.
The body loses around 150g of muscle mass per day (1kg per week), even if the protein intake is adequate.
From the nutritional point of view, the use of supplements, like leucine, can help to reduce this effect. Leucine is an essential amino acid found in protein of high biological value, such as chicken, fish and whey protein.
Studies show that the intake of 3 grams of leucine, isolated or in a whey protein supplement, can inactivate the mechanisms that promote muscle loss whilst increasing protein synthesis in the muscles.
It has been proven that alongside with the leucine, an intake of 4 grams of omega 3 fatty acids daily will also increase this synthesis.
It’s clear to see that nutrition plays a key role when it comes to injuries; both in prevention and treatment.
The nutritional strategies of an athlete that trains hard and competes often have to be directed towards recovery, to reach their energy requirements, along with the requirements of macro and micronutrients.
When an injury occurs, there has to be a stimulation on the muscular synthesis and for that, specific amounts of protein and other nutrients are needed, so a detailed nutritional intervention will be highly suggested.
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About the Author
Bochakorn began her education in conventional medicine as a nurse, then shifted to embrace natural healing and integrative medicines. Her training and certifications abroad include: Nutrition and Western Herbal Medicines, Acupuncture and Moxibustion.
During her therapeutic sessions, she may also incorporate other aspects of integrative medicines when required, including: acupuncture, cupping therapy, moxibustion, nutritional, supplements and herbal recommendation.