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Injuries come with the territory for athletes.

Proper nutrition following an injury is an important part of getting back in the game.

The following dietary recommendations can help enhance recovery and shorten your time on the sidelines.



While it may seem that energy demands decrease after an injury, the healing process may actually increase your energy (calorie) requirements, especially after surgery, with infection, physical therapy, and if walking with crutches.

Undereating during this phase will delay recovery. However, consuming more than your energy demands can lead to an accumulation of body fat.

Focus on getting in the key nutrients in the next segments to help you determine how much you should be eating to support your recovery.



Protein is vital for repairing damaged tissue. During injury recovery, protein needs are even higher than usual to help prevent muscle and strength losses.

Daily intake during healing is ~1.6-2.5 g/kg of body weight (on the higher end with any type of surgery or infection).

Divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to determine your weight in kg.

Aim for 4-6 meals/snacks each day, eating every 3-4 hours. Each meal/snack should provide 20-35g of protein.



Carbohydrates are an important source of energy and nutrients. Consuming enough carbohydrates helps to ensure your body can maximize its use of protein.

Focus on including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, which provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber (helpful for digestion issues due to pain meds).

Vitamin C helps to repair connective tissue and cartilage, while vitamin A works to prevent infection. Eat a rainbow of vegetables and fruits!


Omega-3 Fatty Acids

After an injury, inflammation works as a defense mechanism to limit the severity of the injury. However afterwards, inflammation needs to be reduced to prevent build-up of scar tissue, limited range of motion, and pain.

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation. They are found in fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna, nuts and seeds.

Saturated and trans fats should be limited, as they can increase inflammation.


Calcium & Vitamin D

Calcium and vitamin D are important for bone health. Vitamin D helps the body absorb and use calcium from the diet.

While adequate calcium and vitamin D intake are important nutrients for bone health and preventing injuries, they should not be overlooked during injury recovery either.


Tart Cherries

Tart cherries contain compounds that help to reduce muscle damage, oxidative stress, and inflammation.

Athletes frequently consume tart cherry juice after heavy training sessions for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, lending it to be a great addition to an injured athlete's recovery regimen.


Injuries are frustrating and unfortunate.

Speed your return to play by supporting your injury recovery and rehabilitation with a solid nutrition foundation that provides the energy and nutrients needed for repairing damage.

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