Can Good Nutrition Help You Heal From an Injury?

Do you know what foods you should eat to help you recover from an injury?
Can Good Nutrition Help You Heal From an Injury?

Last update: 15 June, 2020

Nutrition can play a crucial role when you’re trying to heal from an injury. It’s essential for repairing tissues as well as preventing future injury.

During the recovery process, an anti-inflammatory diet is usually best. Aim for something that provides the nutrients that your body needs to help heal your tissues. In today’s article, we’ll teach you what food groups you should include in your diet, and talk about the benefits or downsides of supplements.

Protein is an essential nutrient to heal from an injury

Protein is the key nutrient for healing damaged tissues, so it should be a key part of your diet if you’re recovering from any kind of muscle injury.

During the recovery period, you can slightly increase your protein intake. Think about eating high-quality proteins that contain all the essential amino acids.

It’s probably not necessary to use any protein supplements if you’re eating a balanced, protein-rich diet. However, you can evaluate the pros and cons of supplementing with BCAAs (Branch-chain Amino Acids) or leucine [1]. The latter is involved in protein synthesis and building tissue.

Anti-inflammatory foods

The way you eat can also affect inflammation following an injury. To control inflammation, pay close attention to how much omega-3 you’re getting in your food. Eating more oily fish (two servings a week) is a great start.

Another way to get enough omega-3s is to eat a handful of nuts a day, or raw vegetable oils. Be careful with these kinds of high-fat foods, because they’re also high in calories. Gaining weight, after all, won’t help speed up your recovery after an injury.

Healthy foods on a wooden table.

Besides omega-3s, there are other compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. Two examples are polyphenols and flavonoids, which are found in vegetables. Eating more berries and cruciferous vegetables are also great strategies for shortening the recovery period.

Taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements, vitamin C and vitamin E can also speed up recovery from muscle injuries.

Heal from an injury: watch your calorie intake

This is one of the most complicated parts of injured athletes’ dietary considerations. It’s important to get enough nutrients, but you have to stay within the normal calorie guidelines. Since you won’t have the same level of physical activity as you normally do, you should have some weight control strategies in place. One important one is to restrict your carb intake, especially at night.

Another great option tends to be intermittent fasting. The most practical of these plans is the 16:8 protocol. People get good results with this one, and it’s easy to follow. If you’re interested in following any kind of special diet, be sure to talk to a doctor or nutritionist first.

Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake during these recovery periods serves a dual function. On one hand, it’ll help you feel fuller for longer because fruits and vegetables are high in fiber. It also improves tissue recovery because of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in these foods.

Supplementing with melatonin

Melatonin is responsible for regulating your circadian sleep cycles. Taking melatonin supplements, then, can have a positive effect on recovery. It can improve your sleep, which is a key part of any recovery process. It also seems to help reduce oxidative stress after physical activity [2]. This tends to be important, especially in the first stages of the process.

A person on a scale.

Nutrition and injuries

Diet can play an interesting part in recovery, especially if you have a muscle injury. Eating enough protein, and choosing anti-inflammatory foods will help ease your symptoms and speed up the process. In terms of supplements, there really aren’t very many that have proven effective.

One of the key aspects of a good recovery diet is to make sure you’re getting the appropriate number of calories. You want to try and avoid gaining weight while your training is on hold. That will help you get back into your routine more quickly once you’re healed. 

To that end, try to avoid processed food and simple sugars, as well as alcohol and soda. Limiting your carb intake or practicing intermittent fasting are also great strategies.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • 1 – Theis N., Brown MA., Wood P., Waldron M., Leucine supplementation increases muscle strength and volume, reduces inflammation and affects wellbeing in adults and adolescents with cerebral palsy. J Nutr, 2019.
  • 2 – Czuczejko J., Sielski L., Wozniak B., Wozniaz A., Szaewczyk-Golec K., Melatonin supplementation improves oxidative and inflammatory state in the blood of profesional athletes during the preparatory period for competitions. Free Radic Res, 2019. 53 (2): 198-209.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.