The Athlete’s Kitchen
Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD June 2011
Nutrition for Injury Recovery: Update from ACSM
Each year, more than 5,000 health professionals gather at the Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM; www.acsm.org). At this year’s meeting (Denver, June 1-4, 2011), exercise physiologists, sports medicine doctors, and sports nutritionists shared their research and offered updates. One of the updates will be of utmost interest to women runners.
Nutrition for Injuries
Unfortunately, part of being a runner seems to entail being injured; no fun. Runners with injuries should pay attention to their diet. If they are petrified of gaining weight (yes, petrified is a strong word, but it seems fitting to many injured athletes who seek my counsel), they may severely restrict their food intake. One marathoner hobbled into my office saying, “I haven't eaten in two days because I can't run…”
While injured runners do require fewer calories if they are exercising less than usual, they still need to eat an appropriate amount of fuel. Injuries heal best with proper nourishment. For example, if you have had surgery (such as to repair a torn ligament), your metabolic rate might increase up to 20%. Using crutches increases energy expenditure by 5 to 8%. If a wound happens to get infected, metabolic rate can increase by 50%.
When injured, you want to eat mindfully, so that you eat enough calories—but not too many calories. Before you put food into your mouth, ask yourself: “Does my body need this fuel? … Will this food provide nutrients to help my injury heal?” Your mind may want excessive treats to comfort your sorrow, but the nutrient-poor cookies that help you feel happier for a moment can contribute to undesired fat gain that will increase your misery for the long run.
If you have ever had a broken bone (or suffered a stress fracture – editor’s note), you have seen first-hand the muscle wasting that occurs when, let's say, a leg has been in a cast for 6 to 8 weeks. The good news is, according to Dr. Stuart Phillips of McMaster University, muscle strength and power returns quicker than muscle size. You can minimize excessive muscle loss by eating adequate protein. The typical (and adequate) protein intake is 0.5 g protein per pound of body weight per day ((1.1g/kg/day). During recovery, a better target is about 0.7 g pro/lb (1.6 g/kg). For a 150-pound athlete, that’s 75 to 105 g protein for the day, an amount easily obtained through your diet. Simply choose a protein-rich food at each meal and snack throughout the day to help maximize healing and minimize muscle loss.
Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels casual and competitive athletes in her practice at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill MA (617-383-6100). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook and food guides for new runners, marathoners, and soccer players are available at www.nancyclarkrd.com. See also sportsnutritionworkshop.com for her upcoming Western US workshops.
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Bennett Cohen (the Savvy Runner) and Gail Gould are the Founders and Presidents of the International Association of Women Runners (IAWR). To learn more about this global community of women who share a passion for running, visit www.iawr-connect.com.