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The Top 14 Foods and Supplements for Sports Injuries

When it comes to sports and athletics, injuries are an
unfortunate part of the game.

However, no one likes to be sidelined for longer than
necessary.

Fortunately, certain foods and supplements may help reduce the
amount of time your body needs to recover from a sports injury.

This article lists 14 foods and supplements you should consider
adding to your diet to help recover from an injury more
quickly.

Runner with a Sports Injury

1. Protein-Rich Foods

Protein
is an important building block for many tissues in your body,
including muscle.

After a sports injury, the injured body part is often
immobilized. This generally leads to a decline in strength and
muscle mass (1, 2, 3).

However, getting enough protein can help minimize this loss.
Furthermore, a protein-rich diet may help prevent inflammation
from getting too bad and slowing down your recovery (2, 4).

Moreover, slightly increasing your protein intake once you
start training the injured body part again helps you rebuild
any lost muscle (2, 4).

For all these reasons, make sure to include
protein-rich foods
like meat, fish, poultry, tofu, beans,
peas, nuts or seeds in your daily menu.

How you distribute these foods throughout the day also seems to
matter (5, 6).

Research shows that spreading your protein intake equally over
four meals may stimulate muscle growth more than an uneven
distribution (5).

Experts also suggest that eating a protein-rich
snack
before bed may help enhance your body’s
muscle-building process while you sleep (1).

Bottom Line: Eating protein-rich foods at
every meal and snack may help prevent muscle loss following
an injury. Protein-rich foods may also help you regain muscle
mass faster once you return to training.

2. Fiber-Rich Foods

Mixed Whole Grains

Recovery from injury often involves immobilization or limited
use of the injured body part.

To prevent this from resulting in unwanted body fat, it’s
important to compensate by eating slightly less.

One way to reduce your calorie
intake
is to consume a diet rich in fiber.
This, along with consuming the protein-rich foods mentioned
above, will help you eat less without feeling hungry (7).

That’s because fiber-rich
foods
such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains
help promote feelings of fullness after meals (8, 9, 10).

As an added bonus, fiber-rich foods tend to be high in several
other nutrients essential for your recovery, including vitamin
C, magnesium and zinc (2, 11).

However, note that restricting calories too severely can reduce
wound healing and promote muscle loss, both of which negatively
affect recovery (2, 12, 13).

Therefore, individuals who were attempting to lose body fat
before the injury should consider postponing their weight loss
efforts. Instead, focus on maintaining your body weight until
recovery is complete.

Bottom Line: Consuming fiber-rich foods
while recovering from an injury can be an effective strategy
to limit the gain of unwanted body fat.

3. Fruits and Vegetables Rich in Vitamin C

Kiwifruit and Other Fruits and Vegetables

Vitamin C helps your body make collagen, which
helps maintain the integrity of your bones, muscles, skin and
tendons (2, 14, 15).

Therefore, getting enough vitamin C from your diet is a great
way to help your body rebuild tissue after an injury.

Moreover, vitamin C has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
properties, which may help speed up your recovery by preventing
excessive levels of inflammation (2, 4).

Luckily, vitamin C is one of the easiest vitamins to get enough
of through your diet.

Foods with the highest amounts of it include citrus fruits, red
and yellow bell peppers, dark leafy greens, kiwi, broccoli,
berries, tomatoes, mango and papaya.

However, it’s currently unclear whether supplements provide any
benefits for those already getting enough vitamin C from their
diet.

Nevertheless, the small number of people who can’t consume
enough vitamin C-rich foods may want to consider taking
supplements.

Bottom Line: Vitamin-C rich foods can help
your body produce the collagen that’s required to rebuild
tissue after an injury. It can also help prevent excessive
inflammation from slowing down your recovery.

4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Salmon Steak White Background

After an injury, the first phase of wound healing always
involves some inflammation. This inflammatory response is
beneficial and needed for proper healing (2).

However, if this inflammation remains too high for too long, it
may slow down your recovery (2).

One way to prevent excess inflammation from delaying your
recovery is to eat enough
omega-3 fats
.

These fats, which are found in foods such as fish, algae,
walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds, are known to have
anti-inflammatory properties (16).

You can also prevent excess or prolonged inflammation by
limiting omega-6 fats, which are commonly found in corn,
canola, cottonseed, soy and sunflower oils.

Consuming too many
omega-6 fats
is known to promote inflammation, especially
if your intake of omega-3 fats is also low (17).

In addition, some studies report that omega-3 supplements may
help increase the creation of muscle protein, reduce the loss
of muscle during immobilization and promote recovery from
concussions (18, 19, 20, 21).

That said, high intakes of omega-3 fats from supplements may
reduce your body’s ability to regain muscle mass once you
return to training. Therefore, it may be best to increase your
omega-3 intake from foods rather than supplements (22).

Bottom Line: Foods rich in omega-3 fats may
help speed up your recovery by limiting excessive or
prolonged inflammation. Limiting your intake of omega-6 fats
can also be helpful.

5. Zinc-Rich Foods

Foods High in Zinc

Zinc is a component of many enzymes and proteins, including
those needed for wound healing, tissue repair and growth
(23, 24).

In fact, studies show that not getting enough zinc from your
diet can delay wound healing (23, 25).

Therefore, consuming zinc-rich foods such as meat, fish,
shellfish, pulses, seeds, nuts and whole grains may help you
recover more effectively from an injury.

Some people may be tempted to simply take zinc supplements to
ensure they meet their recommendations.

But zinc competes with copper for absorption, so receiving high
doses of zinc from supplements may increase the likelihood of
copper deficiency (26).

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Overall, if your zinc status is good, additional zinc from
supplements probably won’t speed up wound healing. However,
getting enough from your diet is important.

Bottom Line: Regularly consuming zinc-rich
foods can help speed up wound healing and tissue repair and
growth.

6. Vitamin D and Calcium-Rich Foods

Leafy Greens

Calcium
is an important component of bones and teeth. It’s also
involved in muscle contractions and nerve signaling (27).

That’s why it’s important to ensure you always get
enough calcium — not just when you’re recovering from an
injury.

Calcium-rich
foods
include dairy products, leafy greens, sardines,
broccoli, okra, almonds, seaweed and calcium-fortified tofu and
plant milks.

Vitamin
D
also serves an equally important function because it
helps your body absorb the calcium found in the foods you eat.
Together with calcium, it plays an instrumental role in
recovering from a bone injury (28, 29).

Also, getting enough vitamin D may increase the chances of a
good recovery after surgery. For instance, studies have found a
good vitamin D status can enhance strength recovery following
an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery
(30, 31).

Few foods naturally contain vitamin D, but your body has the
ability to make vitamin D from exposure to the sun.

Those living in northern climates or spending a limited amount
of time outdoors may require supplements to get enough vitamin
D (28).

Bottom Line: Eating enough calcium-rich
foods is necessary for proper recovery from fractures.
Getting enough vitamin D can also help.

7. Creatine

White Powder in a Black Measuring Spoon

Creatine
is a substance naturally found in meat, poultry and fish.

It helps your body produce energy during heavy lifting or
high-intensity exercise. The human body can also produce about
1 gram of it per day (32).

Creatine has become a popular supplement commonly used to
increase muscle mass and improve performance in various sports
(33).

Interestingly, it may also help you recover from an injury.

One study reported that creatine supplements enhanced the gain
of muscle mass and strength lost during a two-week
immobilization period more than a placebo (34).

Another study found that individuals supplementing with
creatine lost less muscle in their upper body during a
week-long period of immobilization than those given a placebo.
However, not all studies found these results (35, 36, 37).

Both of the studies showing positive results provided the
creatine supplement in four doses of five grams each day.

It’s important to note that there is currently no consensus
about creatine and sports injury recovery. That said, no
studies to date have found any negative effects.

Creatine remains one of the
most-studied, safest supplements
around, so it may be worth
giving it a try (32, 38).

Bottom Line: Creatine may boost your
recovery by reducing how much muscle you lose immediately
after your injury. It may also help you regain muscle more
quickly once you go back to training.

8. Glucosamine

White Capsules in the Lid of a Pill Bottle

Glucosamine is a natural substance found in the
fluid that surrounds your joints. It is involved in the
creation of tendons, ligaments and cartilage.

Your body naturally produces glucosamine, but you can also
increase your levels through supplements. Supplements are
generally made either from shellfish shells or fermented corn.

Research in individuals with arthritis shows that glucosamine
may be useful in decreasing joint pain (39, 40, 41).

Also, studies in healthy individuals show that supplementing
with 1–3 grams of glucosamine per day may help reduce joint
deterioration (42, 43, 44).

One recent animal study also showed that taking glucosamine
daily after a fracture may speed up bone reformation (45).

Based on these findings, some people take glucosamine
supplements to help reduce pain after joint and bone injuries
or speed up recovery from fractures. However, more research is
needed before strong conclusions can be made.

It’s worth noting that glucosamine supplements may pose a risk
to those who are allergic or sensitive to shellfish or iodine,
pregnant women and those with diabetes, high cholesterol,
asthma or high blood pressure (46).

Bottom Line: Glucosamine may help reduce
pain and speed up recovery from fractures. However, more
research is needed and some people shouldn’t take it.

9–14. Other Foods Beneficial for Bone Fractures

Vegetables and Bowls of Dried Beans on a Table

In addition to getting enough calcium and vitamin D, good
intakes of the following nutrients can contribute to a speedier
recovery from bone fractures (11):

  1. Magnesium: Promotes bone strength and
    firmness. Found in almonds, cashews, peanuts, potato skins,
    brown
    rice
    , kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils and milk.
  2. Silicon: Plays an important role in the
    early stages of bone formation. Best sources include whole
    grains and cereals, carrots and green beans.
  3. Vitamins K1 and K2: Directs calcium toward
    bones and helps improve bone strength. Best sources include
    leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, prunes, sauerkraut, natto,
    miso, organ meats, egg
    yolks
    and dairy products from grass-fed cows.
  4. Boron: Promotes bone health by increasing
    calcium and magnesium retention and enhancing vitamin D’s
    effect. Prunes are the best dietary source.
  5. Inositol: Helps improve calcium absorption
    in bones. Found in cantaloupe, grapefruit, oranges and
    prunes.
  6. Arginine: This amino acid is needed to
    produce nitric oxide, a compound necessary for fracture
    healing. The best sources include meat, dairy, poultry,
    seafood, nuts and oatmeal.

Those recovering from bone fractures should consume foods rich
in these nutrients daily.

Bottom Line: The nutrients described above
are necessary for the health of your bones. Therefore,
getting enough of them may help you recover from a fracture
more quickly.

Take Home Message

When it comes to recovering from a sports injury, many elements
come into play.

While not all of them are under your influence, one factor you
can control is the nutrients you provide your body.

Therefore, regularly consuming the foods and supplements
mentioned in this article is one way you can speed up your
recovery.

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