June 17, 2020

Nutrition and your sports injury


Can nutrition play a role in your recovery from an injury?

I have been doing some work with the Newcastle Knights NRL team around their nutrition strategies during an injury. 

Everyone who is going through a sports injury can use nutrition to help their rehab and recovery process. 

As I was writing an injury protocol for a Knights player, there was a lot of really simple and practical information that all injured athletes should be considering. Here are few useful tips that were worth sharing:

- Get those ‘Get Well’ treats out the house as soon as possible. If you are going to indulge, keep it to indulges that help rather than hinder.  While you recover, opt for binge-watching your fav shows on Netflix or send endless snapchats to pester your mates instead of indulging in high sugar-high fat foods.  Sometimes some extra sugar and extra fat can make us feel a bit better (momentarily) as we deal with the blow of an injury - but don’t let these food choices linger for too long.

- Maintain a routine of 3 meals and 3 snacks each day. Growing athletes with an injury still have high demands for energy and nutrients. Don’t restrict your food intake unnecessarily. (Did you know that someone who is very mobile on crutches can use up to 30% more energy compared to walking unaided?).

- Aim for quality foods. This includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. The variety of colours from these foods are going to add a whole heap of nutrients essential to processes in the body that are involved in the repair of soft tissue and bone. Can you eat 5 handfuls of different coloured vegetables every day? Choose a few different fruits throughout the day.

- Avoid fried foods and high fat takeaway options. These only add poor quality nutrients to your body which are more likely to hinder rather than promote healing.

- Avoid highly processed foods that includes packets of salty flavoured, high fat crackers, chocolate covered muesli bars, potato chips, cakes and biscuits, soft drinks, and cordials.

- Ensure that your carbohydrates pack a lot of fibre. As you slow down through less exercise so can your gut. Keep everything moving through your gut system with grain cereals and breads as well as plenty of veggies and fruits. Keep drinking plenty of water. EXAMPLE: Change your bread to whole grain or your cereal to a granola mix. Add some carrot sticks to the lunch box foods.

- Add some extra protein. Many athletes may need an extra serve or two of lean protein during the day. EXAMPLE: add a high protein yoghurt for morning snack and 2 boiled eggs for afternoon snack. You don’t need to pile your dinner plate with more meat. Spread your protein throughout the day by aiming to have one high protein food with each meal and snack.

-Good fats are key. Some of our quality fats have an essential role for injury recovery. They can assist with reducing inflammation at an injury site. EXAMPLE: avocado, fish (salmon, tuna, and sardines), eggs, olive oil, mixed nuts and seeds.

The big take-home message is the FOOD FIRST approach to nutrition and injuries. Less about the supplements and more about the good food. This is how our top athletes are doing it!

Blog post by

Rachel Svenson

Working with junior athletes and those who support them from the kitchen and the side-lines has always been a favourite part of my work and an area I have built expert knowledge around.

View profile→