According to research, poor nutritional status can impede the healing process and recovery from injury. (1) It is evident that insufficient protein intake can worsen your inflammatory response to injury and can lead to slower injury and wound healing. Adequate protein in your diet can help minimize the muscle loss that occurs with immobilization, and plays an important role in collagen synthesis, a central component of the tissue repair process. No strong evidence suggests to date that increasing protein intake beyond recommended levels will have a positive effect on the healing process.
Most active individuals, when facing an immobilizing injury, cut back on their caloric intake to prevent weight gain. However, it is important to realize that during the healing process of a severe injury, your energy expenditure may go up by 20%. If you find yourself on crutches, the energy cost of getting from point A to point B may be 2-3 times the amount of regular walking. Keep in mind that optimal energy intake is also necessary for maintaining your muscle mass and mitigating muscle loss due to injury. Carbohydrate and fatty acid intake, particularly omega-3s and omega-6s, will provide the body with the necessary fuel for energy production, essential to the healing process.
The process of tissue repair is also highly dependent upon adequate vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, C and E, magnesium, copper, zinc and iron also play an important role in collagen formation, tissue repair and effective immune system response. Vitamin D and calcium are necessary for the healing of bone fractures and maintaining the bone density that you have acquired through your activity of choice.
Once your injury has healed and you have entered the rehabilitation process, it is important to support increased muscle growth with adequate protein levels, estimated at approximately 1.2 g/kg of body weight/day. Again, consuming a healthy, balanced diet should provide all of the macronutrients that you need for optimal muscle tissue growth. In order to ensure that you are getting the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals, ask your doctor about complementing your diet with a vitamin supplement.
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