Ask the Sports RD: What Should I Eat When I’m Injured?

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What Should I Eat When I’m Injured?

While nothing substitutes good, old-fashioned rest, nutrition can be a key player in injury recovery. Recommendations vary depending on your specific injury, but one principle is the same: even though you’ve dialed back your activity, do not skimp on food. Even though you may not be logging as many miles as usual, restricting your food intake can slow the recovery process. Your body needs those building blocks from food no as much as during training. To maximize your injury recovery nutrition, keep in mind the following:

#1) Focus on Inflammation Balancing Foods: Increasing intake of foods with a high omega-3 fatty acid content like fish, eggs, walnuts, chia, and flax seeds can fight excess inflammation.  Add in extra high antioxidant foods like fruits and vegetables. Spice things up with inflammation-fighting go-to’s like cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger!

#2) Keep Protein Intake High: When protein is broken down, the resulting amino acids help to rebuild injury sites.  Like the body’s building blocks, they are a key component of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones.   In fact, protein needs post-injury typically remain as high as if you were training, which can oftentimes be 1.5-2x the average person.  Be sure to distribute your protein throughout the day to promote the best muscle protein synthesis for healing.

#3) Focus on Leucine: Leucine is one of the essential, branch chained amino acids (BCAAs) that promotes the highest rates of muscle protein synthesis and is promoted by the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) as an anabolic activator for recovery from injury.  Foods highest in leucine are fish, beef, cottage cheese, yogurt, eggs, tofu, soy milk and almonds.

#4) Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a mandatory cofactor in collagen formation in the body. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and the major component of bone, muscles, and skin.  This function makes Vitamin C intake essential for proper injury recovery. Foods with high vitamin C are citrus fruits, red bell peppers, dark leafy greens, kiwi, broccoli, berries, tomatoes, mango and papaya.  Word of caution: If using supplements, taking megadoses of (>2g/day) of Vitamin C can cause GI distress.

#5) Vitamin D and Calcium-Rich Foods: If your injury is bone-related, it is important to hone in on your vitamin D and calcium intake. Calcium is essential for bone building and maintenance, but a lack of Vitamin D can hinder calcium absorption.  Look for calcium-rich foods like dairy, broccoli, almonds, tofu and most plant milks. Vitamin D can be tough to get enough of, especially in darker winter months. Adding in foods like salmon, eggs, milk, and UV light treated mushrooms are good sources of vitamin D no matter the weather.

Golden Turmeric Latte:

Serves: 1


1 1/2 tsps Ginger (grated)

1/2 cup Coconut Milk (canned)

1/2 cup Water

1/2 tsp Turmeric (powder)

1 1/2 tsps Honey

1/4 tsp Cinnamon

3/4 tsp Coconut Oil


#1) Grate the ginger then squeeze the juice out of it into a saucepan. Discard the pulp. Add the remaining ingredients to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Heat through for about 3 to 5 minutes, not letting it come to a boil. Whisk continuously.

#2) Carefully transfer into a mason jar and seal with a lid. Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds, or until foam starts to form.

*Note: You can also use a blender for this step, but the turmeric can stain the blender cup.

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