There is little more frustrating for any active person, than being unable to exercise for long periods of time! Injury, surgery, and illness can lay low even the most dedicated sportsperson, and speeding up recovery time and getting back to daily lifestyle activities, as well as training, is always a priority.
In addition to rest, making an effort to eat ‘clean’ with an emphasis on healing foods, will support the body’s ability to repair and recover.
Diet is an incredibly effective tool in the whole recovery process.
So, while you have enforced time off with your feet up, consider some of these healing nutrition strategies.
Choose foods that have less processing and therefore more nutrient retention. Foods with lower ‘food miles’ will be fresher and more nutritious, and those produced biodynamically or organically will have less pesticides and other sprays that your body has to work harder to remove.
To get over missing your long run or ride on Sunday morning, head to the local farmers markets and find locally grown fresh fruit & vegetables, spray free nuts, smoked fish, fresh herbs, fermented breads, raw cakes & desserts and other culinary delights!
Eat more anti- inflammatory foods.
A number of foods and food components have been shown to help reduce inflammation, helping the body recover more rapidly, naturally. Fruits and vegetables have powerful antioxidants that reduce inflammation, for example blueberries, strawberries, carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, spinach and pineapple, as well as cherries, pomegranate and grapes.
Add fresh and canned fish to boost your omega -3 fatty acid intake – these are also strong anti- inflammatory compounds, as are the fats in nuts, and nut butters olives and olive oil, ground flaxseeds, avocado and canola oil.
On the other hand, excessive omega-6 fats, particularly hydrogenated varieties found in processed foods (e.g. corn, sunflower, safflower, soy) can have an inflammatory effect on the body, so keep the proportions of these low.
There are a number of herbs and spices that contain strong anti inflammatory compounds as well, including turmeric, ginger and garlic, and cocoa and green tea have also been shown to provide potent antioxidants with anti inflammatory properties.
So … eat more curries, vegetable stir fries, green smoothies with turmeric, cocoa power balls (see my website for recipes), and substitute green tea in place of sports drink.
GO FOR QUALITY
When you are not training your energy (kJ) requirements will be lower, and some people may need to eat smaller quantities than usual, however this is not the time to go on a rigid diet. Your body needs adequate energy to repair tissues, build immunity and will need extra kilojoules if you have had trauma or surgery. Use your appetite as a guide to how much to eat, and use ‘fresh, unprocessed & colourful’ as a guide to what you should eat! Choose nutrient dense foods like fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, legumes and dairy/alternatives, emphasising the amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants you can pack in each bite.
Reduce excess fat intake from cakes, pastries, icecream, processed meats and other packaged foods and substitute with fresh fruit, raw nuts, wholegrain breads and cereals, fish and yoghurt. Reduce (not eliminate) your carbohydrate serve sizes at meals and ensure you have wholegrain options wherever possible, e.g. brown rice, wholemeal pasta, quinoa, buckwheat, sweetcorn.
Cutting out too many carbs can result in your body using protein as a fuel source, when it is required for healing.
Choose nutritious protein rich foods like fish, lean meat, eggs, nuts, dairy/alternatives, fish and legumes as the amino acids in protein are essential for muscle and tissue healing, particularly after physical therapy. It is important to include a variety of foods from different food groups as many interact synergistically, enhancing nutrient uptake, and effectiveness.
Be aware of boredom eating – find non-food activities to amuse and entertain you if you are housebound for long periods.
MEET YOUR MINERAL NEEDS
Many athletes run low on iron stores due to the demands of training and inadequate intakes, and iron deficiency can reduce immunity and impair the ability to heal. If you think you may be low, ask your doctor for a blood test, looking at iron levels and iron stores (ferritin).
To boost your intake, include lean red meat, poultry, green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, dried fruit and foods rich in vitamin C to enhance absorption.
The mineral zinc is also really important for repair and growth in the body, and an increased intake may be useful during the recovery phase. Oysters and other seafood as well as lean meats are good sources of zinc, and it is also found in wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
It’s a lot trickier to remember to drink enough water when you’re not sweating for hours each day. However, whilst your fluid needs will be reduced when you are inactive, you still require a good water intake each day to flush toxins including medication by products and other wastes from the body.
Try fresh lemon or lime in your water, and keep a water bottle with you throughout the day.
Eat nutrient rich, high quality, fresh foods
Listen to your appetite and eat accordingly
Include a variety of foods
Eat clean – less processed, packaged foods and more fresh options
Reduce overall kilojoule intake by cutting back on high fat, high sugar processed foods
Include nutritious carbohydrate rich and protein rich foods
Eat more anti-inflammatory foods like fresh, colorful fruit & vegetables, fish & seafood, nuts & wholegrains, olives, flaxseed, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cocoa and green tea.
Include iron and zinc rich foods each day
Drink enough water
Lorna Garden APD is a registered and practising dietitian specialising as a sports dietitian accSDA and a Preferred Practioner with ASkinSolutions. Lorna has a passion for ‘fit food’- whole fresh foods that nourish, inspire, energise and create an healthy body and mind. Lorna works with a range of individuals, offering creative solutions for meeting nutrition and lifestyle goals.