I’ve always found physical activity to be my stress release. Walking, running and finding outdoor places that are not crowded to do something positive and healthy for myself. The past few months have provided the gift of less structure, which meant more time to move.
Unfortunately, overuse resulted in a fibula fracture requiring four weeks with a walking boot. I thought I would share some recommendations on being proactive when it comes to the big three: injury, inflammation and immunity.
Injury: How to Support Your Body
When an injury occurs that significantly changes the type of exercise one can do, a natural response might be, “I’m not moving as much, and therefore I should cut back on eating.”
However, you may not realize that the body can expend 15 to 50% more calories depending on the type and severity of injury. And if we add crutches into the mix, we need two to three times more calories per day than in our previously uninjured state. So first suggestion, don’t go too low with calories or you can slow healing and recovery. In addition, short changing on calories can result in muscle mass loss.
However, eating more than you need may result in increased body fat, increased muscle mass loss and increased inflammation.
[READ: Top Upper Body Workouts.]
What Should You Eat to Heal?
— Protein, especially foods rich in leucine.
— Dairy and other calcium-rich foods.
— Foods high in vitamin C.
Protein is key to help with healing, so increasing protein to 0.9 grams per pound body weight may be a good idea. And to optimize protein’s impact, it’s recommended to divide protein intake out evenly over the day, aiming for at least 20 grams of protein per meal and including some protein in snacks as well.
Ideally, include foods that are high in leucine — the amino acid that stimulates muscle protein synthesis — such as dairy foods, beef, poultry, pork, fish, eggs, tofu and beans.
I found it easy to meet my needs by making sure to eat yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, fish and beans daily. Dairy foods also provide calcium, which is important for bone health. Vitamin C is important for collagen production, so I made it a point to include fruits and vegetables in every meal/snack. In addition, vegetables that are high in dietary nitrates such as beets, arugula, celery and spinach can help with wound healing and bone remodeling.
Shredded beets and spinach are frequent occupants of my salad bowl. And because alcohol may negatively impact muscle mass and also slow wound healing, I made it a point to limit my alcohol.
What I found is that by including the “pros,” protein and produce, in every meal and snack, I was satisfied throughout the day and kept the foraging for extra food at bay.
Taming the Pain
Does having a broken bone hurt? Yes! I did take NSAIDS, but found that I didn’t need to take a lot of them in part due to the fact that I regularly consume foods and beverages that help to control inflammation. So what foods did I choose?
— Tart cherry juice.
— Cold water fish.
Tart cherry juice contains plant chemicals called anthocyanins that can reduce inflammation. I like to mix tart cherry juice with sparkling water. Berries contain plant chemicals called polyphenols that may reduce muscle soreness. Fresh or frozen berries are easy to add to smoothies, cereals, salad, as a yogurt or cottage cheese topper or on their own.
Beets contain dietary nitrates, which can reduce muscle soreness. And let me tell you, when you wear a walking boot, you compensate with your non-booted leg — plus I turned to a stationary bike instead of my usual walking/running — so I was achy since I was using different muscles.
With injury, sometimes activity decreases, which can mean a loss of strength. Pomegranate arils or the juice may reduce loss of strength associated with inflammation. I like seasoned food, and turmeric can help with delayed onset muscle soreness, as well as with bone and joint health. Ginger and saffron are both analgesic (pain reducing) and anti-inflammatory. Turmeric and saffron are great in savory dishes such as soups, stews and sauces. Ginger lends itself to both savory and sweet dishes.
Cold water fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines, as well as chia, flax and hemp seeds, provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory.
And minimizing intake of added sugars in dessert, sugary beverages and candy can also help to reduce inflammation
— Vitamin C from fruits and vegetables.
— Foods rich in zinc.
Preserving a healthy immune system is top of mind for all of us right now. This is why it’s extremely important to optimize intake of calories, protein, vitamins and minerals. We also need to minimize immune system detractors such as alcohol, which alters the normal immune system response to infection, and shortchanging our calorie and carbohydrate requirements.
Taking care of our gut is important to support a healthy immune system. I like to include fermented dairy foods like yogurt to provide probiotics. Fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits/juice, members of the cabbage family, leafy greens, white potatoes and tomatoes/juice are excellent sources of vitamin C, which plays a role in the development of immune cells.
Since zinc deficiency is associated with impairment of the immune system, it’s recommended to include foods high in zinc such as beans, chick peas, beef and fortified cereals.
To create the healing plate, focus on what you’ll put on your daily menu to reclaim strong bones, tame the pain and maintain a healthy immune system.
More from U.S. News