Diet tips for preventing injury

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By Coach Joel Bane

Good morning everyone, this is Coach Bane writing to you and I just wanted to share my MRI results (all four of them) that I just got back yesterday. These four made my grand total 21 in the last four years which has gotten completely out of hand. Anyways, the military Doc reads me my results and this is what she says; torn triceps with severe tendonitis, two new bone deformations in my shoulder with a possibly torn labrum from some previous trauma with a ton of scar tissue. In just my lower back they found five bulging discs, 1 herniated disk with a few tears in there and I’m still waiting on pins and needles for my official results from the surgeon regarding my right knee, so I can schedule it for surgery first, since it had already been previously scheduled years ago when I was told it was torn in two places.

What’s the point of me telling you all this? The point is I could have taken better care of myself as an athlete. People like us don’t typically know when to say when. Many athletes have a tendency to shrug off every injury and ignore them for way too long and continue pressing through them as I did. I tore that shoulder, triceps and knee over three years ago. I don’t want you guys to make the same mistake I did. Resting and rehabbing an injury is of course very important but the topic for today is diet, and believe it or not diet is a big part of preventing and recovering from these types of injuries.

The tips:

There’s no doubt that smart training helps prevent injuries. But so will a wholesome diet, filled with foods that will enable your body to mount a strong defense against muscle strains and tears. Here are a few nutritional strategies to prevent injuries:

Pile on the protein. True, a high-carbohydrate diet will fuel your workouts. But many athletes take this advice to the extreme, living on bagels, pasta, and energy bars. Besides carbohydrates, you also need 80 to 100 grams of protein as a minimum per day just to maintain your muscles and other soft tissues. A small 3-ounce serving of chicken provides about 25 grams of protein, a glass of milk 10, a soy burger 14, and a hard-boiled egg 6. If you’re only eating one protein source a day, you’re not consuming enough. Try to include some protein in every meal. As an athlete who trains daily at intense levels you are better off with something more along the lines of what a strength athlete would consume in regards to protein which would be 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.

Dining During Downtime:

If you do get injured, the length of your downtime is obviously determined by the severity of your injury, and the degree to which your body is nutritionally prepared to handle this new stress. If you have a severe injury, and you can’t exercise, you’re probably wondering: “How can I avoid gaining weight?”

Relax. Even though you’re not exercising like you could before or perhaps at all, you’re still burning calories between 5 to 15 percent more than usual to repair your injured body. Also, for most injuries, total downtime usually lasts about 2 weeks. After that, you might not have the green light to do your thing, but you may be able to do other forms of exercise, such as swimming or pool running.

If you restrict your calories too much during this initial 2-week period, you might lengthen your recovery because your body won’t have enough protein to both repair your injury and carry out its typical maintenance.

So, how do you prevent weight gain and still ensure a sound recovery? Don’t cut back more than 500 calories a day. And if you notice that you’re losing weight, start eating more immediately.

Other than calories, you need many of the same nutrients for recovery as you need for injury prevention. But now they’re even more important. Bump up your protein intake to AT LEAST 100 to 120 grams a day MINIMUM (again 1-1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight for high intensity athletes). Zinc and iron are also crucial for recovery and the following nutrients are a must:

Calcium: If you have a stress fracture or a broken bone, your body really needs this important mineral. You should take in up to 1,500 milligrams a day. If you don’t eat dairy products, take a supplement, or drink calcium-fortified juice.

Vitamin A: Your body uses this vitamin to make new skin and other tissues that are vital to your healing. New research shows that your body isn’t as efficient as we thought at converting the carotenes from fruits and vegetables into vitamin A. This means you need to eat even more of them. You should have two servings of leafy greens and yellow and orange vegetables every day during your recovery. Drinking vitamin A-fortified milk is also a good idea.

Vitamin C: Your body needs this antioxidant to make collagen, an adhesive-like protein found in your bones, connective tissues, and blood vessels. When you’re injured, collagen is the substance that glues the injured area back together. Women need 75 milligrams of vitamin C each day, and men need 90 milligrams. If you eat a diet rich in berries, cantaloupe, oranges, and other fruit, you’ll easily meet this requirement.

The better you feed your body, the more likely you’ll remain injury-free, and the faster you’ll bounce back if you do happen to get injured.

Yours in fitness,

Coach Bane

Source: Liz Applegate, Ph.D., is the author of the book Eat Smart, Play Hard, published by Rodale, Inc., and available online at


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