Sustaining an injury is a tough trial to turn, but understanding the needs of the body on a cellular level can empower any injured individual to combat their injury wisely. You may ask yourself, "How did I get injured in the first place?", but that is not the point of this specific article. Once you are in an injury "cycle", it is your responsibility to get out of it. What does "injury cycle" mean? Perhaps this chart (courtesy of Trigger Point Therapy) will help explain:
The Injury Cycle:
I specifically appreciate this depiction of the injury cycle as it considers hydration, the integrity of the tissue networks (read my post "The Soft Tissue Issue" to learn more), biomechanics, and psychological reaction in one cycle. It is important to be aware of these stages so that you may see where you are or could be during injury.
Suprisingly, the psychology of injury ends up dictating poor nutrition during the cycle. Imagine you have badly sprained an ankle. You may be mad because you cannot work, play, exercise, or move like you could before the injury. You entire mindset shifts from carefree to careful. Some do everything in their power to deal with the injury, some ignore it until it goes away. Some people rest it but have misconceptions about how much and what they should be eating. Hopefully this article with diminish that confusion.
Understand that when injury occurs, your body's response is primarily inflammation. Redness, swelling, heat, and pain are all characteristics of inflammation.While inflammation is a necessary part of the healing process, the goal post-occurance of the injury is to reduce it (hence the purpose of anti-inflammatories). The goal IS NOT to get rid of inflammation, but to control it.Another physiological event post-injury is anabolism, or the building up of protein-based structures after their breakdown, or catabolism. This is somewhat similar to process of muscle building and the rebuilding of bone. Therefore the content of your "injury diet" should have these two goals: promote tissue anabolism and reduce inflammation.
The Injury Diet:
Before I outline the general suggestions to cope with injury nutritionally, understand that they are only suggestions. I recommend consulting a nutritionist in conjunction with a well-versed doctor to confirm and further specify your needs. Also know that chronic (long-term) and acute (short-term) injuries require different needs.
- Calories: In order for the processes and raw materials of healing to be dealt with and integrated, energy is needed. This is where most people make a big mistake; they under-eat. By eating too little, you are preventing an effective healing process. Under-eating can actually advance further into the injury cycle, as well as cause you to enter it in the first place. However, during injury your BMR (basal metabolic rate) should increase 15-20%. [if you don't know your estimate BMR, go here: http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/].
This is where the "injury psychology" can be detrimental. It is logical to think that if you're moving less, you need less calories. Other reasons for under-eating are fear of gaining too much fat, losing too much muscle, or losing performance. While these things may occur on a smaller-than-percieived scale, they can be managed after injury as well as potentially maintained during. As similar to nutrition during sickness, under-eating is a general trend that should be overlooked.
- Protein: As with muscle building programs, protein intake should increase as they are the basis for tissue structures. The baseline protein intake is often 0.8g/kg but should increase 1.5-2.0 g/kg. If you are already intaking that ratio, a good rule of thumb during injury is 1 gram/lb of bodyweight
- Fat: The overall consumption fat during injury demonstrates a certain trend; any fats unbalanced in terms of ratios will not reduce inflammation effectively. Saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats should all share 1/3 each of your overall fat intake. When supplementing with fish oil, 3-9 grams are enough (or 1 gram of algae oil). The monunsaturated fats in nuts, seeds, or olive oil can somewhat reduce inflammation, but too much will interfere with the healing of acute injuries.
- Carbohydrates: There are no current suggestions for numerical intake of carbohydrates, but glucose is certainly needed for healing. Insulin should be controlled and stable (as it is an anabolic hormone) in respect to sugar intake. Processed and excessive sugar and carbohydrate inake can increase inflammation and prevent healing.
- STAY HYRDATED
- Vitamin A: Can help rebuild collagen and support healthy and early inflammation. It also prevents the immune system from being supressed. In very short periods of traumatic injury, 25,000 IU per day is often used temporarily. In 1-2 weeks after acute sport injuries, 10,000 IU per day. Vitamin A should be used wisely and not in excess, as there could be a risk for toxicity.
- Calcium and Iron: There is no recommendation during injury, as these minerals do nothing during it. In fact, they play larger roles in prevention of injury.
- Vitamin C: Increasing collagen synthesis, white blood production, and acting as an antioxidant are all benefits of Vitamin C. 1-2 grams/day during injury is recommended to keep the tissue strong.
- Copper: Helps to form elastin, the best friend of collagen, which is why copper works well with Vitamin C. Copper also helps to form red blood cells. 2-4 mg/day is recommended.
- Zinc: Responsible for synthesizing DNA and protein as well as cell division. 15-20 mg/day will accelerate tissue repair.
- Tumeric: This herb also anti-viral and anti-bacterial properities in addition to its anti-inflammatory properties. Some Indian foods contain tumeric and other herbs that reduce inflammation.
- Garlic: Compounds in garlic can "turn off" certain inflmammatory enzymes, reducing activity. Garlic extracts are also quite effective and sometime preferred.
- Bromelain: Found in pineapple, and can also help with digestion.
- Boswellia: Often found in extract form, this tree resin has been reported to do good anti-inflammatory work.
- Flavonoids: These are chemicals found in plants that often reflect pigmentation (color). There are many perceived health benefits of flavonoids, although research is still catching up. Dark-colored fruits and leafy vegetables are good to incorporate (and daily due to their antioxidant properties) but extracts of grape, blueberry, citrus, and green tea can also prove useful. Outside of injury, these can be used to reduce inflammation after workouts, such as cherries recently being proven to do so.