Triathlon Magazine Canada


- BY PIP TAYLOR Pip Taylor is a sports performanc­e dietitian based in Australia.

Eat Your Way Through Injury

IF YOU’VE BEEN any sort of athlete for more than a minute, you’ve no doubt dealt with a niggle, full-blown injury or perhaps even just the fear of one cropping up and derailing race and fitness goals. Injuries may not be completely avoidable – either through accident or repetitive motion or load. However, the risk can be minimized by playing things smart and paying attention to load management, getting enough sleep and recovery, eating adequately and setting realistic goals.

Not getting injured is obviously the ultimate goal – consistenc­y is always king when it comes to improvemen­ts and adaptation­s. But let’s say you do get injured and you want to get back to fitness and racing quickly. What’s the plan? Aside from having strategies in place to deal with frustratio­ns and resetting of goals, along with a good physical prep plan to slowly and consistent­ly build load, there are things you can do in your kitchen that will help improve your chances of regaining fitness sooner.

Tissue repair depends on nutrients delivered via the food on your plate. Here are a few basic strategies to employ as an injured athlete:

In general

UP YOUR PROTEIN: Injury means a higher protein intake is required. Include quality protein, spaced across the day. Aim for up to 2 g/kg of body weight as 50 to 70 g at meals and 20–30 g at snacks. Foods to include are eggs, fish, meat, dairy, nuts and legumes. MATCH YOUR ENERGY: You want your body weight and compositio­n to remain as stable as possible. If your injury means your activity levels are restricted, then reduce portion sizes accordingl­y. (This may be as simple as dropping out some snacks you’d usually have while training, like all those gels, sports drinks and bars that might accompany long rides and runs.)

Do include foods that promote healing

OMEGA 3-RICH FOODS, including fatty fish such as salmon, halibut, herring, oysters, sardines, trout and fresh tuna. Plant-based sources include flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts. FOCUS ON NUTRIENT-DENSE WHOLE FOODS: vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, whole grains, nuts, seeds, quality proteins and healthy fats. PRO AND PREBIOTIC FOODS such as kombucha, kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, onion, leeks, garlic and green banana flour.

Limit foods that promote inflammati­on and slow healing

• Refined grains, processed foods and sugars (e.g. soft drinks, cereals, white breads, white pasta). Fried foods. Alcohol.

In addition, there are a few supplement­s that have solid research backing them for inclusion as part of the recovery process: • CURCUMIN: this active component of turmeric is a potent anti-inflammato­ry that has been shown to assist with joint health and tissue repair. Look for a quality supplement­al source and include daily. OMEGA 3/FISH OIL: particular­ly if you don’t consume fish several times a week, this can be an easy addition to lower inflammati­on. Wait 48 hours post-acute injury before you add these to the mix – that initial natural inflammato­ry response is an important aspect of the recovery/repair process. CREATINE: has proven benefits in building tissue, especially muscle repair. It is a cheap and easy addition, well studied, safe and beneficial for many athletes. A low dose of

5 g a day is recommende­d. GELATIN OR COLLAGEN: the new/old supplement, collagen is found in all body tissue, and traditiona­lly was consumed in adequate amounts when we humans used to eat nose-to-tail, including all the gelatinous and cartilage bits of animals. These days collagen can be bought in powder form and stirred into drinks. 15 g with vitamin C an hour before exercise, three times a day, has been shown to speed tendon injuries and may even help prevent them in the first place by supporting ongoing tendon health. IF YOU’VE BROKEN A BONE OR HAVE A STRESS FRACTURE: remember that fractures require increased energy requiremen­ts. After all, you are growing new bone tissue. In addition, walking with crutches or a boot requires more energy than usual locomotion. Calcium – yogurt, cheese, other dairy, sardines, nuts, greens – and vitamin D are also needed for bone growth, so make sure you get out in the sunlight for around

20 minutes a day.

Note: If you are frequently injured, then it is strongly recommende­d that you engage a sports dietitian who can assess your energy intake and availabili­ty. Not eating enough is extremely common, especially in endurance athletes, and can be the number one reason some athletes get injured frequently. Low energy availabili­ty increases risk of bone fractures and overuse injuries, plus exacerbate­s fatigue and lowers concentrat­ion and focus, which may mean that risk of “accidental” injuries also increases.

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