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The Truth About Nutrition and Injury Recovery


Injuries are a nightmare for many people, especially athletes. However, it is important to not lose sight of your goals and forget about your nutritional plan, even when you cannot train.

Let’s explore how and why.

Healing injuries with nutrition?

First, let’s get something out of the way: While there are many that claim otherwise, you cannot “heal” your injuries through nutrition. That’s a myth.

Your body will heal on its own if you give it enough time and rest to do so. Surely, having adequate amounts of calories and nutrients in your diet is essential for you to stay healthy in the long run.

But there are no magic quick fixes that will speed up your body’s response to injury and the healing process.

While certain nutrients, such as Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, were shown in some studies to be somewhat beneficial to our bodies’ healing, the effects that were observed are far from significant.

As much as we wish it could be true, we can’t just take massive amounts of any vitamin, mineral, herbal extract, or superfood, and expect that recovery will automatically be boosted.

It is important to have a healthy balance of Omega-3 to Omega-6, and a good vitamin D level, as is the case with most key vitamins and minerals. Maintaining that is unquestionably going to help you in the long run. Just don’t expect any fantastic, accelerated healing to happen after taking a supplement that might make such claims.

That said, you should still eat healthy and be mindful of your nutrition while injured. Being injured is not a free pass to ignore what you put into your body!

While we might be disappointed that there’s nothing we can put into our bodies that can magically get us back to 100% in a couple of days, some real impressive repair does happen on its own through our bodies' innate healing capabilities.

The fact that the body can fix where it’s broken is kind of magical, if you think about it. It just takes time and patience. Let your body do its job while you keep focused on your goals in the long term.

To diet or not to diet?

If your current goal is weight loss, the big question on your mind will be: Should I keep a calorie deficit going, or do I need to eat more to heal better?

In general, the increase and decrease of our body mass is determined through our calorie intake and whether we have a surplus or deficit of said calorie intake in relation to our calorie expenditure.

Activities such as exercise or conditions such as injuries may increase the need for calories somewhat.

However, while it certainly would not make sense to starve yourself during an injury, a small to medium calorie deficit will not hurt your healing response.

All things considered, the increase in energy demand due to an injury is not nearly as big as you might think. On the other hand, not being able to exercise will significantly decrease your calorie expenditure while you are injured. So if your goal is to lose body weight, keep that deficit going.

Another important factor here is protein consumption: Make sure to consume an adequate amount of protein. It will help you keep your lean mass (i.e., your muscles) intact while also helping you lose weight more easily.

Keep gaining muscle

Or maybe your current goal is to build more muscle? Then, you might not be too keen on being in a calorie deficit. Just make sure you get your protein in!

If you were active and did your workouts before the injury, your muscles will keep growing for a while longer. They will keep growing for a short amount of time, even if you can’t work out due to an injury.

This is because we don’t grow muscle during exercise, but during our recovery from exercise.

So, while it may be tempting to replace your usual meals with sweets and other comfort foods during a frustrating break from training, you shouldn’t.

Don’t underestimate the impact of proper nutrition on your muscles over the long haul. Get that protein in. You’ll be glad you did when you come back to working out without losing your progress!

Key takeaways for your recovery and healing period

There is a lot of (mis)information out there on how injuries can be dealt with through nutrition. And while there is certainly nothing wrong with getting in adequate amounts of nutrients, they are by no means a magic fix.

Your body will take care of your injury on its own. The key thing is to make sure your mind is in the right place to help it do that – focus on keeping your nutrition on point, and continue to eat consistently healthy meals.

Remember that while you may not necessarily be eating to fuel intense workouts while you are recovering from injury, eating right on a regular basis can be considered progress.

Stick with it and it’s just a matter of time until you’re healed up and ready to get back to training.
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