Nutrition is actually a key component of injury rehabilitation that is often overlooked. In fact, a well-designed nutrition plan can speed up the healing process, while the reverse is also true. Meaning, bad dietary habits can actually impede your recovery. If you support the body daily with proper nutrition, that is the right number of calories, the right quantities of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, the right amount of water and the right combination of vitamins and minerals for your body you will be less likely to get injured and you will recover faster if you do have an injury. Injuries can frequently be a sign of a nutritional imbalance. Here are 10 super-foods that can assist you in recovery and support the body in a time of recovery. They are great on their own to enhance your current diet or can be combined together.
1.) Ginger- contains gingerols, which are potent anti-inflammatory compounds that also help in pain reduction in muscles and joints. Try adding fresh ginger to smoothies and stir-fry’s for an added kick
2.) Cherries- Cherries are packed with vitamin C, which is great for tissue repair post exercise and supporting the immune system. Vitamin C is needed to enhance the absorption of iron. Vitamin C is important for tissue formation, especially collagen. Collagen provides the strength and flexibility for ligaments, tendons and is necessary to hold bone together. Cherries also contain a phytonutrient called anthocyanins that help reduce inflammation and reduce oxidative damage caused by strenuous training.
3.) Coconut Water – Coconut water is rich in electrolytes magnesium and potassium that help promote muscle recovery and nervous system relaxation. Make sure that you aren’t getting a flavoured version with added sugars and artificial flavours, and look for brands that are not-from concentrate. Coconut water also contains water which is critical to optimal health, performance and injury prevention. A dehydrated joint or tissue is more susceptible to tears and injury and puts additional stress on the body. (Aim for 2-3 litres of pure water daily and avoid or limit the consumption of sugary beverages, coffee and alcohol)
4.) Turmeric- An herb that contains curcumin, an anti-inflammatory compound that also has pain-reducing effects. Use dried turmeric in your cooking, baking or add a teaspoon to your next smoothie.
5.) Fish Oil –Cold water fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, and has been found to reduce inflammation and boost the immune system. If you are vegetarian, you can opt for ground flax or chia seeds as a source of omega-3 or supplement with an algae oil. Omega 3, an essential fatty acid, is one of our defenses against inflammation which is a culprit in injury and a hindrance in recovery. Omega-3 also helps to ensure well lubricated joints and tissues and a healthy immune system. Most people are deficient in omega-3 and consume far too much Omega-6 leading to an imbalance in the system.
6.) Pineapple- contains bromelain, an anti-inflammatory phytonutrient that helps the body heal. Fresh pineapple works best, easily added to a smoothie, and has added digestive aid properties.
7.) Beets- Beets are one of the highest sources of dietary nitrate. Nitrate has been shown to improve athletic performance (in some), likely by reducing the amount of oxygen needed by the body to perform work. Typically, beets are recommended before a workout, however, I say your recovery meal is the first step to your next training session!
8.) Spinach –is rich in mineral iron, which is key to red blood cell health. Without adequate amounts of iron, we can’t get enough oxygen rich blood to the muscles.
9.) Pumpkin seeds – rich in mineral zinc. Zinc is a key immune system supporter and helps the body use protein in the regeneration of muscles and body tissues.
10.) Protein- Amino acids such as L-glutamine, L-lysine and L-taurine are needed for recovery post workout for muscle repair as well as immune system support. Post workout, look for protein sources that are easily digested. While lean meats, eggs, fish, and beans can all be consumed post workout, a high quality unflavoured protein powder will give you an easy to digest source that is readily available to your muscles.
Staying nutritionally balanced is one way to ensure that you stay healthy, injury free and on track with your athletic goals. Fill your body with an abundance of high quality nutrients from a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, raw nuts and seeds, organic meats and pure clean water. Eating a balanced and whole-foods diet is the best way to keep your energy levels up and your body functioning smoothly, without injury, to prevent injury and speed up the healing process.
Get A Good Nights Sleep
Nothing will make your progress stall quicker than trying to get through the day’s recovery activities with less than sufficient sleep. When you deprive your body of a good night’s rest, you start the day on a tank that’s already in the near-empty zone. Couple that with dashing out the door without eating and you’re really depleting your energy levels.
Researchers have found that disruptive sleep patterns are linked with slow recovery periods.
How much sleep do you need? Experts recommend a good 7 to 8 hours a night. It’s also recommended to create a sleep pattern that works for you. Some people find that playing soothing music lulls them to sleep. Others may read for a while in bed until sleep overtakes them. Another tip is to keep the bedroom cool. No TV watching in bed, say the experts. That will disrupt your sleep.
Waking refreshed from a good night’s sleep, you’ll be better prepared to tackle the day. Even things that seemed tough the day before may look a little less difficult after you’ve gotten enough rest.
Develop New Interests
Part of the problem in early recovery for many individuals is that they return to the same routines as before going into rehabilitation.
How do you fill the hole in your life when you’ve removed the habits you used to engage in? The answer is to develop new interests. If nothing springs to mind, or there isn’t anything that you feel you want to do, start doing something positive that gets you out of the house and involved in an activity or action that can potentially benefit you.
If you have a hobby, join a club where you can interact with others who have the same interests. Like to snow ski, toboggan, and ice skate? Find groups or locations where you can engage in this healthy outdoor activity.
Developing new interests also encompasses learning new things. Going back to school to get or complete a degree, taking a class in photography or artistic cake design, brushing up on skills or learning new ones that can advance your career or get you in the door of a new one – all are ways to explore and become involved in something new.
Besides getting you out of the house, developing new interests helps take the focus off of your problems, exposes you to others with whom you can interact, and promotes a healthy lifestyle that is beneficial to your recovery.