Nutrition for Injury


Myth: “I am an injured athlete. I should eat less calories while injured to keep from gaining extra weight.”

Fact: The truth is that your body actually needs more calories (15-20%) to help it repair damaged tissue and heal. During this time you want to make sure and consume quality calories (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, lean protein) to promote lean weight and remember that once you start exercising again any extra pound or two gained will likely burn right off.

Sports Nutrition 101

Nutrition for Injury . . . Can food help you heal?

Have you ever wondered if food can help you heal? The truth is…YES…it can! Food provides the building blocks needed for cells to repair and proliferate and also influences messages sent throughout the body to regulate blood flow, tissue replacement and healing. The main key is to eat a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and healthy fat as these provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. But when injured, there are a few to focus on to help the body heal . . .

Calories, carbohydrates, protein and fat requirements

    • Calories: Energy needs are actually higher when the body is repairing itself due to post-injury hormonalchanges & the physical requirements of new tissue formation. Resting metabolic rate (RMR) can actually increase 15-50% after traumatic injury with 15-20% being the normal after surgery. Thus the goal is to increase healthy calories post-injury.
    • Carbohydrates: No specific recommendations so simply include adequate carbohydrate in every meal and snack. Glucose (carbohydrate from diet) is needed for injury repair & for stabilization of insulin concentration in the blood stream
    • Protein: Protein is key for tissue repair and remodeling. Rehabbing an injury requires 2 gm/kg body weight of protein.
    • Fat: Increase omega-3 fatty acids to 3-9 gm/day. Examples include salmon, salmon oil, sardine oil, flaxseed, walnuts, hemp seeds, green leafy vegetables, other oily fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil. Limit intake of omega-6 fatty acids from foods such as vegetable oils (corn, safflower, sunflower & soybean)


  • Vitamin E has been shown to delay healing & thus should not be provided during injury recovery
  • Vitamin A supports early inflammation after injury, helps reverse post-injury immune system suppression & assists in collagen formation.  Recommend 25,000 IU during short periods after surgery and 10,000 IU for 1-2 weeks post-injury.  Food examples include: green leafy vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, mango.
  • Vitamin C enhances neutrophil & lymphocyte activity during the inflammation phase & plays a role in collagen synthesis. Recommend 1-2 gm/day for limited time spans.  Food examples include: citrus fruits, strawberries, red & green peppers, green leafy vegetables.

• Copper is a mineral that assists in the formation of red blood cells & acts in concert with vitamin C to strengthen connective tissue. Recommend 2-4mg/day during first few weeks post-injury. Food examples include: seeds & beans.

• Zinc is required for over 300 enzymes in the body & plays a roll in DNA synthesis, cell division & protein synthesis . . . all which are necessary for tissue regeneration & repair. Recommend 15-20mg/day, especially during initial stages post-injury. Food examples include: oysters, beef, liver (beef, veal, chicken and turkey), the dark meat of turkey, pumpkin seeds, almonds, pecans, brazil nuts and clams.

• Iron deficiency impairs proliferation of all cells involved in wound debridement and healing. Food examples include: pumpkin seeds, tofu, meat, sweet potato, pinto beans, macadamia nuts, walnuts, artichoke, spinach and tomato juice, meat. Consume iron foods with foods rich in vitamin C such as citrus fruits/juices, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, red and green peppers. This helps increase iron absorption.

Natural Anti-inflammatories
• Turmeric is a flowering plant in the ginger family & common ingredient in curry powder. It’s been used for anti-inflammatory & wound healing. Turmeric extract supplement will have greater effect.

• Garlic has been shown to inhibit the activity of two inflammatory enzymes, cyclooxygenases & lipoxygenases, & affects the function of the function of macrophage cells which help clear dead tissue from inflammation sites. Recommend 2-4 gm of whole garlic clove.

• Bromelain is an anti-inflammatory plant extract & has analgesic compounds. Found in pineapple. Recommend 500-1000mg/day to manage inflammation.

• Flavonoids can also help manage inflammation through their well-know anti-oxidant properties. Compounds found in cocoa, tea, fruits, vegetables & legumes. Can be taken in supplement form via blueberry extracts, green tea extracts, and biflavonoid supplements.

Healthy Bites…Recipe of the Month

Need to be able to think in your morning class and have energy? Try the “Brain-power Breakfast Sandwich”

Many athletes skip breakfast and feel lethargic and less attentive in the morning. This is a problem because most athletes are in school in the morning and need to be on top of their education game. Combining carbohydrate with protein and healthy fat at breakfast help sharpen your mental acuity and give you sustainable energy throughout the morning.

Let’s breakdown “Brain-power Breakfast Sandwich” ingredients…Whether you make your breakfast sandwich with a bagel, English muffin or normal bread, aim to use 100% whole wheat. Whole wheat products are full of vitamins and minerals that athletes need and have fiber to help them stay full. In addition, choose stuffing ingredients that are lean and high in protein such as egg, 2% cheese, lean Canadian Bacon, ham or turkey sausage. The protein in these items provide quality nutrients for building lean muscle mass and will help you stay full all morning.

The Higher Calorie “Brain-power Breakfast Sandwich” Recipe

    • 1 – Thomas Hearty Grains whole wheat bagel
    • 1 egg
    • 2 slices Kraft 2% cheese
    • 2 oz turkey sausage

Nutrition Facts: Calories: 552, Carbohydrate: 57 gm, Fiber: 8 gm, Protein: 40 gm, Fat: 18 gm, Cholesterol: 285 mg

The Lower Calorie “Brain-power Breakfast Sandwich” Recipe

  • 1 – Thomas Hearty Grains whole wheat/honey wheat English Muffin
  • 1 egg
  • 1 slice Kraft 2% cheese
  • 2 oz Oscar Meyer Canadian BaconNutrition Facts:Calories: 315, Carbohydrate: 28 gm, Fiber: 3 gm, Protein: 25 gm, Fat: 11 gm, Cholesterol: 255 mgSo no matter if you are trying to lose weight, gain weight or just maintain weight . . . you NEED breakfast! If you want to gain weight eat the “higher calorie” breakfast sandwich and if you are trying to lean out or maintain your weight, then try the “lower calorie” breakfast sandwich. Both provide a vast amount of nutrients. Grab a fruit and a glass of low-fat milk and you are ready for a great day of school and practice!
  • –Amy Goodson

    amy-goodson-quarterback-ranchAmy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD is a registered dietitian for Ben Hogan Sports Medicine and serves as the sports dietitian for the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, FC Soccer Dallas, Jim McClean Golf School, Texas Christian University Athletics, and University of Texas at Arlington Athletics. In addition, she is an adjunct professor and dietetic intern preceptor for Texas Woman’s University, Texas Christian University and the University of Texas at Arlington and is a state media representative for the Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. . She received her Bachelor of Science degree in speech communications from Texas Christian University and Masters in Exercise and Sports Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.