Nutrition For Recovery From Injury

Nutrition For Recovery From Injury

Nutrition is an often neglected aspect of injury rehabilitation. By choosing the right food and supplements you can enhance recovery from injury.

Just the Right Amount of Inflammation

Immediately after an injury the body the produces and inflammatory response. This is actually helpful in healing the injury. The important thing where diet is concerned is to get the balance right between allowing the immune system to function normally whilst preventing the inflammatory response from becoming excessive. To assist with this, reduce pro-inflammatory foods such as saturated fats found in vegetable oils, saturated fats found in processed meats and trans-fats found in sweets, crisps and cakes. Throughout the recovery and beyond, leafy green vegetables packed with anti-inflammatory flavanoids should be a bedrock of your nutritional strategy.

Getting the Right Energy Intake

It is important when recovering from injury to get energy balance right. When the body is healing it requires more calories than when completely sedentary but not as much as it would require than when training at full fitness. Finding out your basal metabolic rate (BMR) can be a useful guide to the number of calories you should consume. BMR can be estimated using many online calculators or, for the serious athlete, through body composition analysis. Usually the main adjustment to be made is in reducing pre- and post- workout carbohydrates (in the case of injury this is a rehab workout). Having plenty of good quality protein such as quality meat, whey and dairy is important. Protein provides the branch chain and essential amino acids that provide the building blocks for recovery.   

Fatty Acids

In order to regulate inflammation in the body having the right balance of fatty acids in the body is important.

Increase oily fish intake and consider taking a 2-3.5 EPA/DHA fish oil supplement. Helpful foods include oily fish such as salmon tuna and mackerel, olive oil, nuts and seeds and avocado.


This anti-inflammatory spice prevents breakdown of protein. Curcumin containing turmeric also enhances the uptake of glucose into muscle. Use 5-7g of turmeric in cooking daily.

Green Tea

Green tea can be of benefit in tendinopathy and tendinitis. Around 5 cups per day are required for sufficient flavonoid intake. Matcha green tea has the most concentrated form of green tea available. As five cups per day can be hard to stomach many athletes prefer to take EGC green tea extract as a supplement.

Stock (aka Bone Broth)

Home-made stock, or as it is known in Parsons Green, “Bone Broth,” may be helpful in supplying some of the nutrients to a recovering injury. It is not however, the modern equivalent of Asterix’s magic potion. Unfortunately, the amount of collagen we consume is not directly proportional to the collagen in our joints. However, if you like stock and have several hours to kill, preparing some and sipping it may provide some limited benefit.


Supplements do not provide any shortcut to returning from injury. However, supplementing the diet with whey protein and branch chain amino acids may be useful in providing some of the building blocks for tissue repair. Ornithine alpha ketoglutarate may also be of benefit for muscle protein repair. This is taken in a dose of 250mg per kg of body weight before bed. Vitamin C has a role in the production of collagen as well as being a powerful antioxidant. In addition, it is helpful in increasing the activity of white blood cells during the initial stage of injury. Vitamin C should be taken in a dose of 1-2g per day.

Blood Testing  

For the serious athlete having blood work taken can be useful in identifying and nutritional deficiencies that may prohibit speedy recovery from injury. For example, having adequate vitamin D levels is likely to be of benefit in bone and muscle repair. Two thirds of the UK population have insufficient levels of vitamin D. The ratio Omega-6:3 can be useful in assessing the effectiveness of the nutritional strategy in controlling the body’s inflammatory response. Having a high ratio of Omega-6:3 is thought to impair collagen production whilst a lower ration is likely to improve tissue healing.

While a good rehabilitation program is a must when recovering from injury, having the right nutritional strategy also plays it’s part. So make sure you’re choosing you food wisely if you want to get back on track.

Dr Hugh Coyne