When we think of nutrition, most of us think of fueling or recovering from training. But food does play an equally important role: that of injury care and prevention.
Injury can be obvious, as is the case with a fall, crash, or rolled ankle. It can involve wounds and skin abrasions, broken bones, tendons, ligaments and muscle damage. Injury can also be more subtle, manifested by an overuse strain, a tight hip, or plantar fasciitis.
Preventing injury requires a strong defense system. Workouts and races mean muscles fibers are constantly being broken down, bones are being remodeled and the immune system is being challenged. Once injured, your body needs to try and rebuild, adequate nutrients to remodel and repair, and antioxidants to help reduce inflammation associated with injury.
Here’s a simple prescription for using food to help prevent and treat illness and injury—and it’s more than just an apple a day. And then I’m going to talk about molecular hydrogen because it’s not a food and it’s not a supplement in the normal sense.
Nutritional Power Players: Calories, Fat, and Protein
Our muscles, ligaments and bones need energy in the form of calories to maintain optimal strength and structure. So eating enough is a fundamental basic for any athlete. Scraping by on inadequate calories, or carrying too little body fat for too long, will open you up to injury and illness. The same applies if you find yourself injured. You need to regenerate and strengthen cells.
Here’s a rough guideline. In heavy training (12 to 15 hours a week) women should shoot for 2,200 to 2,800 calories a day and men for 3,000 to 4,000. In off season, women should aim for 2,000 to 2,400 and men for 2,500 to 3,000. But rather than counting calories, try to eat enough to maintain your weight, or if you are trying to lose body fat, shoot for weight loss of around 0.5 kg per week to prevent muscle mass loss.
Fat is slowly shedding its bad reputation, and it’s now being heralded as an essential component of a healthy diet. Fat supports proper structure and function of cells throughout the body—in particular, nerve cells. Fat is essential for good thermoregulation, support and protection of vital organs and it allows for the uptake of fat soluble vitamins including A, D, E and K. Omega 3 fats also help reduce inflammation.
Include oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna for Omega 3s, as well as avocado, nuts and, flaxseeds and olive oil in your diet.
Adequate protein supports all the tissues in the body. Strained or sore muscles benefit, but so do bones and even wounds. Aim for at least 80 to 100 grams per day and spread out throughout the day.
With my usual apologia to vegans, eggs, nuts, dairy, and animal proteins are all great sources of protein. Red meats in particular also provide iron, which is necessary to oxygenate cells and promote and speed recovery, but also are a rich source of the B vitamins and zinc required for energy and growth. Try to get grassfed meats because they provide they full range of amino acids and the essential bone builder, Vitamin K2.
Micronutrients and Antioxidants
Antioxidants in supplemental form do not have the same protective effects as those consumed in real foods and in fact have been shown to delay the healing and adaptation response. In other words there is no substitute for a diet rich in fresh fruits and veggies.
Vitamin A, C, and zinc:
These components are needed for wound healing and collagen formation—the connective tissue that forms and determines the strength of ligaments and tendons—as well as immune function. Vitamin C is also a powerful immune system booster and plays a role in the period immediately following an injury.
For vitamin C think citrus and berries, bell peppers and other fresh vegetables. Leafy greens provide Vitamin A.
Calcium and vitamins D and K: Stress fractures are not an uncommon injury among triathletes and runners. For maximizing bone strength or to speed healing, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K are crucial.
Calcium is found in dairy as well as the small bones of canned fish, and some fortified foods. Vitamin D is availble in foods such as egg yolks and oily fish, while vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables and fermented foods such as natto (Japanese fermented soybeans) and miso.
Flavinoids: These compounds give plant foods their different colors, and are known to reduce inflammation.
Cocoa, blueberries, garlic, spinach, turmeric and spices help provide flavanoids.
If you haven’t already faced injury at one point in your triathlon career, the unfortunate truth is that you probably will. Without adequate preventative strategies (such as monitoring your training load and recovering right), injuries are just around the corner—especially for athletes constantly pushing themselves to reach their goals. Use your diet to keep injury, whether pesky or season-ending, away, and get back out on the course quickly.
Now I’m going to talk molecular hydrogen because it’s something completely ‘left field’ and when something like this appears no-one believes that the smallest atom and molecule in the universe could have such profound effects of athletic performance. Well, without focusing on the huge number of studies now being carried out, I’m saying that I have had amazing results, and suggesting you simply try it. Until the end of this month it’s half price. We want you to try I LOVE H2 because only by trying it will you see why athletes internationally are raving.
We also need users to prove its place in an athlete’s repertoire of training and performance support.
Learn more here.