Diet of an Athlete During Injury

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Diet of an Athlete During Injury

When an athlete is injured, their short term dietary requirements and goals may change suddenly, and it is important that the athlete is prepared and willing to make those changes. If they continue with their normal training diet, they may hinder recovery, and lengthen the time taken to get back to full fitness.

The most immediate response to injury must be that the overall intake of food reflects the athlete’s new activity levels. If the normal diet is maintained, this will result in weight gain, and a longer time to recovery. The number of calories consumed must be reduced immediately.

This reduction in calorie intake is not so important where the injury period is short, but injury periods longer than a week need a more tightly controlled dietary regime. Without this, the athlete will quickly put on weight as the body metabolism slows in response to the lowered activity level.

The body’s natural reaction to injury is to attempt to heal itself. It is important to have a good balanced diet, rich in vitamins, if this healing process is to be encouraged. The diet should be rich in vegetables and fruit, and include protein from lean meat and fish. For a normal athlete, junk foods high in carbohydrates and calories should be avoided. This is even more important for the injured athlete.

Injuries heal by a three stage process. The stages are inflammation, proliferation or scar formation, and remodelling or scar maturation. The optimal diet for recovery from injury varies for each stage.

During the inflammation stage, it is thought that an increased blood flow aids the healing process. As a diet that is high in trans-fats and saturated fat promotes inflammation, this should be avoided.

In the scar formation and maturation stages, protein intake is important as the body recovers. It is important that the athlete does not over-compensate for lack of exercise, and maintains a diet that provides the energy and nutrients needed for the healing process to be successful. The diet of an athlete during injury is an important aspect of the healing process.