Injuries happen. And they stink, right?
As science tells us over and over again, our workouts and healing are only as good as our recovery - and that not only means what we do, but what we eat. So here's the scoop.
(Side note on me: on January 2, 2016, the last day of our little holiday vacation in BC, I had a tumble filled with multiple 'pops' and 'snaps' while clenching my teeth wanting to scream 'F$!%#!!!!!!!!!!' Our trip ended with a sweet heli lift out of the backcountry and a completely re-torn ACL accompanied with an MCL that looked like a dried-out, stretched-out rubberband. Blech.)
It's been 5 weeks of non-stop recovery for me and I want to share with you my top priority when recovering. Did you know that WHAT you eat when healing from an injury can play a huge role in your recovery and be extremely beneficial in combating those aches and pains? Here's why.
Any time you experience an injury, there are:
Three Phases of Tissue Repair
Inflammation | Repair | Remodeling
These phases happen not only during post-injury, but immediately after your intense workouts as well. Every time you train hard (while incredibly beneficial in the long term) you are creating tiny tears and breakdown of the tissue (in a good way!) and it requires proper rest, recovery and nutrition to help rebuild and increase strength. I bring this up to encourage you to apply some of the tidbits below to your workout recovery as well. Being conscious of a balanced diet helps support this repair and may also help prevent future injuries. BONUS!
The inflammation Phase
The inflammation phase begins immediately after an injury and lasts for 3-5 days. This phase, while uncomfortable, is an essential period of healing consisting of pain, swelling and immobility. Adding in certain anti-inflammatory foods during this time will help with this healthy inflammation without impeding the internal repair, which is key.
During this immobilization phase, there is also a decrease in muscle protein synthesis, therefore leading to muscle loss (atrophy), making it imperative you get adequate protein to support the healing.
OMEGAS - A diet high in monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fats will be anti-inflammatory. Omega-3 fatty acids – the best sources of which are found in oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, trout), olive oil, avocados, flax oil, and mixed nuts and seeds.
BROMELAIN: Found in Pineapple - 2 cups of fresh pineapple per day or 500-1000 mg in supplement form. Not only is Pineapple high in bromelain - an enzyme believed to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and promote muscle healing - it's also high in Vitamin C.
QUERCETIN: CHIVES AND GREEN ONIONS - Quercetin helps to increase circulation, bringing more blood flow to and from the injured tissue and manages inflammation.
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY HERBS AND SPICES: Manage your inflammation with some (NOT ALL) of the following. We don't want to suppress the inflammation response completely, we just want to manage it:
TURMERIC/CURCUMIN - Turmeric contains anti-inflammatory properties that can help with joint pain. Studies have shown that 2 g of curcumin daily was just as effective as 800mg ibuprofen for improving knee pain. 7 teaspoons/day or 400-600 mg 3x/d in the form of a supplement.
GARLIC - 2-4 cloves per day or 600-1200 mg extract
GINGER - 2-3 g per day in powdered form. Studies have shown that women taking 3g/day of ginger or cinnamon had a significant decrease in muscle soreness.
FLAVANOIDS - Flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants like Vitamin C (citrus) and Selenium (blue-purple berries, tart cherries, green tea extract and cocoa) are effective for wound healing and inflammation management.
COCOA - Eh-hem. Just the perfect excuse to eat chocolate.
CONSUME ADEQUATE PROTEIN: It is incredible important to ensure you are getting in enough protein to help rebuild tissue (this can be as simple as a portion of lean meat or fish the size of the palm of your hand with each meal)
*Attempt to eat fewer pro-inflammatory foods such as processed foods, foods high in trans fats and vegetable oils
The Repair/Proliferation Phase
This phase begins roughly 5 days post injury and lasts for 4-6 weeks. As the inflammation goes down, your body begins to lay down collagen (scar tissue) to replace the damaged tissue structure.
(Think about it like this: spread your fingers wide on your right hand and lay it flat on the table or over an injured joint (like your knee) as if it was a sticky spider web, and then take your left hand, spread the fingers wide and lay it directly over your right hand but at a diagonal to create a cross-pattern. Visualize this repeating over and over, creating this sticky, adhesive, messy webbing. That's collagen. It's messy, but it's protective.)
When we are fearful of pain or are experiencing pain and restricting our range of motion (ROM), as the body begins to lay down this collagen, it will start to bind the muscle fibers together as well as bind the connective tissue to the muscles and joint and in the end you'll be left with painfully restricted ROM. No bueno.
Continue consuming foods from the Inflammation Phase above.
VITAMIN C - Vitamin C is crucial for collagen synthesis – the protein found in connective tissue, tendons, ligaments and muscle – and is also a potent antioxidant, enhancing immune cell function. Since the body can't store Vitamin C, it should be consumed throughout the day from high sources such as bell peppers, dark green leafy vegetables, parsley, brassicas and citrus fruits.
ZINC - My favorite excuse to eat oysters! Zinc, essential for tissue regeneration, is obtainable from shellfish, lean beef or lamb and pumpkin seeds and nuts (such as almonds - which also provide copper) for collagen synthesis. 15-30mg/d. If taking zinc, balance it with copper - an excess in one can cause a deficiency in the other.
SUPPLEMENTS TO CONSIDER: Supplementing with LYSINE, ARGININE and GLYCINE 2-4 weeks post-injury to help with re-establishing collagen, COPPER 2-4 mg/d during the first few weeks and VITAMIN A 10,000 IU/d for 1-2 weeks post-injury.
The Remodeling Phase
During the third or fourth week, strength training becomes so important for a full recovery and lasts about six months. (This is where I am right now!) This is the time where stressing the muscles and connective tissue improves your function and stimulate growth.
Continue all the powerful and healing superfoods you've added in during the first phase
Adjust portion sizes for adequate energy consumption
Focus on a healthy nutrient-dense diet, incorporating healing foods
Consume protein with every meal
Eat a balance of healthy fats
Avoid processed foods
Eat the rainbow for micronutrients involved in healing
Consume herbs and spices for anti-inflammatory support
Add in the below micronutrients for enhanced support and strength
The building blocks of plants are filled with detoxifying and anti-inflammatory nutrients and not to mention this gorgeous, colorful, tasteless, magnificent powder (or liquid) you can add to ANYTHING.