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
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.