No matter how careful you are to use proper form, stretch, foam roll, and exercise within your limits, minor injuries will happen from time to time. While it can be discouraging to feel like you’re losing ground with your fitness during recovery, the way you handle your nutrition can make the difference between slight losses to fitness and major setbacks from weight gain.
First, it may be necessary to modify what you eat – even if you have healthy eating habits. Due to your injury, you may not be able to work out as hard or as often at the fitness center as before. This means you’re burning fewer calories and need to eat less to meet your body’s needs. If you’re only down for a few days or a week, there’s no need to worry; but, the longer you’re less active and still eating for a higher activity level, the easier it is to gain weight.
Decreasing calories during an injury is much easier said than done, of course, because our appetites don’t automatically line up with our activity level. The best strategy, then, is not to focus on how much you eat, but what you eat.
So, what should you be eating more of when you’re injured to avoid weight gain? Protein.
Protein is the building-block of muscle, so it’s essential for repairing damaged muscle tissue. It’s also more satisfying to the body at the expense of fewer calories. By fitting more protein-rich foods like fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, tempeh (try to limit powders or other supplements) into your diet, you’ll naturally feel more satisfied while consuming fewer calories. Another plus is that protein increases the body’s resting metabolism, so you won’t have to be as concerned about burning fewer calories while you let your body heal.
You might be wondering if there are any other special “healing” foods or supplements you should be taking while you’re injured to accelerate the recovery process. Based on studies, no single food or nutrient has been shown to significantly speed up the body’s healing timeline. The best way to support a swift recovery is to continue to eat a balanced, natural food-based diet.
While a balanced diet is all you need, it can’t hurt to focus on fitting more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet to help your body handle the inflammation that accompanies injuries. Foods like tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy veggies, nuts, fish, berries and other fruit are the most effective anti-inflammatory foods, so it might help to eat more of them when you’re recovering.
You can’t un-do injuries once they’ve happened, but there are ways to prevent them: using good form, stretching, foam rolling, and exercising within your current abilities are good practices to follow in your fitness gym routine. On top of this, maintaining a balanced, whole-food-focused diet that’s full of the nutrients your body needs can help strengthen your muscles, bones, and joints against future injuries.