What to eat during injury recovery.

We’ve all been there. Worked our asses off to reach our goals and without warning something goes. It can be a small or big setback but they all come with their mental strains and an impact on our nutritional needs. you can feel helpless but after reading this you will gain some control over your recovery process.

I know that when I was out of action I was obsessed with maintaining my weight so that when I returned to competition I wouldn’t need to shift any excess weight. This though may have prolonged the recovery time.

I was reading into the area of injury nutrition last week and discovered some facts that came as a bit of an eye opener. Most of us know that to build or rebuild muscle we need to eat the right things and protein is a key macronutrient in the injured athletes diet. We also think that because we are inactive we should reduce calorie intake to make sure we don’t pile on the pounds.  This however is not strictly true.

To understand this, we need to look at our Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). Put simply, RMR is a measurement of metabolism that measures the amount of energy used by our bodies in a relaxed state. My Fitness Pal estimate your RMR in this link, however you should use this figure with caution. This measurement uses the Mifflin St Jeor Equation which is based on body weight and does not take into account the difference in metabolic activity between Lean Body Mass and Body Fat.

The Mifflin St Jeor Equation

RMR males = (10 x weight (kg)) + (6.25 x height (cm)) – (5 x age (y)) + 5

RMR females = (10 x weight (kg)) + (6.25 x height (cm)) – (5 x age (y)) – 161


Right, that’s almost it for the boring stuff. But what’s next may be very useful if you are suffering from an injury no matter how big or small. When we’re injured we are not active and so our appetite is reduced. We then often under eat, resulting in a loss of lean body mass and a slower recovery time. When you are injured your RMR can increase by 15-50% depending on the injury!

We may need to reduce calorie intake from our training diets but not so much that we are at base line or our uninjured RMR. We should actually be increasing our resting calorie intake. To show you what I mean I have made one of those annoying Facebook be like stick men things. Drew did the right thing…


So yes, we should pay close attention to how much we are eating and increase our calorie intake from normal resting levels.  That does not mean we should have a BigMac to make up the extra calories. We must make sure our calories come from the right source to facilitate recovery.
Protein is part of every cell and tissue in the body. It is therefore important we consume a sufficient amount of good quality protein. Protein is essential for rebuilding and high-protein-foodsour bodies can process up to 0.91 grams of protein for every pound of body weight per day. Consuming any more will not result in faster healing but increasing intake to get closer to this figure may have some benefit to the repairing tissue. Chicken is an excellent source of protein and one chicken breast can provide proximately 40g of protein.


In terms of the quality of protein, below is a nice table which basically scores protein from 0-1. It takes into account the essential amino acid profile of foods, its digestibility, and its ability to supply essential amino acids in amounts required by humans. I’ve cut the table down so it shows only high quality sources or protein but from this you can see which provide the best source.

Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) of Selected Food Proteins

Protein Source PDCAAS
Quorn pieces 1.0
Casein 1.0
Egg white 1.0
Chicken (light meat, roasted) 1.0
Turkey (ground,cooked) 0.97
Fish (Cod, oven or grill cooked) 0.96
Soybean protein 0.94
Beef 0.92


whole-wheat-penneWe may also need to reduce our carbohydrate intake as we are not training but it is important we maintain a stable insulin level. To maintain stability in our insulin levels we need to consume Low GI, minimally processed carbs such as wholegrain rice, quinoa and oats and we should be looking to eat every 3-4 hours during the day.


healthy-fats-000058613538Fats are also required to maintain a balanced diet and it
is important for recovery we consume omega 3 fatty acids. These fats help to reduce inflammation and can be found in oily fish such as salmon. Salmon just happens be also be an excellent source of protein making it a perfect food for the injured athlete. As a rule of thumb we should aim to consume 1/3 from each of these 3 types of fats, Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated and saturated fat.


fruit-and-vegWe should also check we are consuming the following trace minerals and vitamins which aid in muscle repair.

  • Vitamin C – Helps to build new protein making it vital for the production of connective tissue and collagen production.
  • Vitamin A – Helps generate and maintain healthy body tissue, including bones and soft tissue.
  • Zinc – Helps to utilise fats and proteins for the process of tissue repair.


So give these tips a go. Obviously nutrition is a small part of the recovery jigsaw. Rest and a personalised rehabilitation program are essential to regaining full fitness and avoiding further injury.

Need any advice? Contact me on my Facebook Page and I’ll do my best to help you with any questions.





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