Wouldn’t it be great if there was something you could do which would complement your physio programme, helping to speed up the process of recovery? The good news is there is, your diet.
What you eat, when and how much is an important but often overlooked part of the rehab process. Research has shown that a good nutrition programme can help the rate at which tendons and muscles repair, positively influence the inflammation process and minimise the rate of muscle mass loss during the rest and recovery period.
Muscle tears are a common sports injury. Let’s take a look at how your diet can help the repair process:
Protein: This macronutrient is a key part of your diet in the first few days post injury and during the repair phase. Making sure you have a regular intake of high quality lean protein is essential for fuelling muscle regeneration and repair. As an approximate, aim for a serving similar in thickness and size of the palm of your hand every 3-4 hours (1 serving for women / 1.5-2 for men). The type of protein is also important here, foods high in the amino acid leucine should be favoured as it’s the only amino acid known to directly stimulate muscle cell growth and repair. Good sources include: lentils, tuna, cod, cottage cheese, almonds, milk and whey protein (hydrolysed whey isolates are best)
Polyphenols: These are photochemicals with antioxidant properties which are important during the inflammation stage of a tear (approximately 4-5 days post injury). Polyphenols are shown to dampen down the scale of inflammation; shortening the transition time into muscle healing and regeneration. Meaning eating a diet high in polyphenols can positively influence the speed of muscle healing. Good sources include blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, spinach, olives, walnuts, green tea and 70% dark chocolate.
Nitric Acid: Around 10 days post injury you want your muscle fibres to favour regeneration over scarring, this can be helped by ensuring that your diet has good sources of nitrates. Research has shown nitric acid is important in modulating muscle regeneration. Good sources include beetroot, spinach, rocket and celery. Another benefit of increasing your intake of dietary nitrates is improved exercise tolerance and performance at moderate and high intensity aerobic exercise. This is because advanced levels in your blood help to relax and widen blood vessels, allowing for more blood flow to reach working muscles. Good to know when you’re back in the game.
Maintaining muscle mass: It is likely that due to injury you will significantly reduce your physical activity levels. During this period maintaining muscle mass whilst simultaneously avoiding gains in fat mass can be challenging, but not impossible. Evidence suggests that, as before, regular intake of high quality protein every 3-4 hours, in the same quantities, can restrict the loss of muscle mass and strength.
So, taking control of your diet is a positive step you can make to get you back in the game quicker.
Farup, 2014: Whey protein supplementation accelerates satellite cell proliferation during recovery from eccentric exercise Amino Acids, 2014, Volume 46, Number 11, Page 2503 Jean Farup, Stine Klejs Rahbek, Inge Skovgaard Knudsen,
Wall, 2014: Strategies to maintain skeletal muscle mass in the injured athlete: Nutritional considerations and exercise mimetics Benjamin T. Wall, James P. Morton, and Luc J. C. van Loon European Journal Of Sport Science Vol. 15 , Iss. 1,2015
Kruger, 2012: Postcontusion polyphenol treatment alters inflammation and muscle regeneration. Kruger MJ, et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012