5 Ways To Use Food For Injury Prevention & Muscle Repair 

Written by Tamara Jacobi
Medical review by Bindiya Gandhi, M.D.
Physician
Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an American Board Family Medicine–certified physician who completed her family medicine training at Georgia Regents University/Medical College of Georgia.

It's time for athletes to take control of their health and embrace a more preventative approach to smart training. Athletes who support their bodies daily with a strong foundation of quality, whole foods can establish a strong defense against muscle strains and tears, and properly nourished athletes can also recover faster if they do get injured.

A balanced fitness regime (including yoga!) can definitely help prevent injury, but quality nutrition can be a deal breaker. The truth is that there's no one-size-fits-all way of eating for sports, and every athlete is unique. However, here are some tips to get you started with injury prevention and healing.

1. Hydrate!

No, that doesn’t mean guzzling gallons of bottled sports drinks. I’m talking about pure, clean water for injury prevention. A dehydrated joint or tissue is more susceptible to tears and injury. Adequate water consumption is critical to athletic performance and injury prevention.

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2. Keep collagen healthy with vitamin C. 

Collagen is needed for holding bone together. It also provides strength and flexibility for ligaments and tendons. Vitamin C is a key player in the collagen equation. Athletes should feast on vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, broccoli, and strawberries (organic, of course!). Adding a squeeze of fresh lemon to your water could also be helpful.

3. Establish a nutritional trifecta for bone health. 

Fill your plate with foods rich in calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D, and your athletic bones will be grateful! Though calcium gets a lot of attention for its role with bone health, the truth is that magnesium and vitamin D are equally as important. Calcium is definitely required for strong bones and thus for the prevention of stress fractures, but the body doesn't absorb calcium well and requires magnesium for proper assimilation.

Vitamin D is also required for proper calcium absorption. But before you reach for some milk and cheese to build strong bones, keep in mind that many people suffer an adverse reaction to dairy. Alternatively, a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, cold-water fish, and whole grains can help you meet your calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D needs. Don’t forget to enjoy some sunshine!

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4. Calm inflammation with healthy fats.

Omega-3 fatty acids work as your body’s primary defense against chronic inflammation. Omega-3’s can do wonders to help to ensure that your athletic joints and tissues are nourished and that your immune system is healthy and happy. Many athletes are deficient in omega-3’s and consume far too many omega-6’s. Oily fish, seeds, and raw walnuts are all great sources of omega3’s.

5. Don’t forget the zinc!

If you do become injured, zinc can be an extremely important mineral for helping the healing process of tissues and wounds. Whole food sources of zinc include red meat, lentils, turkey, and brown rice.

Integrate these tips into your sporty life, and you’re on the road to becoming a holistic athlete. Feasting on quality whole foods and being mindful of injury prevention can do wonders for your athletic career. These tips are helpful for any type of movement--whether you’re a professional athlete or an avid gym rat. 

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