Diet is an important part of running healthy.
When you’re sidelined with an injury, diet can play an important role in getting you back on your feet faster. For each common injury, there is a nutrient (or two) that can help you recover.
Injury: Stress fracture
Stress fractures are an overuse injury, often caused by repeatedly running long distances or drastically increasing mileage. Primarily affecting the bones in the lower legs and feet, stress fractures occur when the muscle becomes fatigued and transfers undue stress to the bone.
Eat: Calcium and vitamin D
Milk does a body good. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that athletes with a stress fracture get at least 1000 mg of dietary calcium – a 240ml glass of milk has about 300 mg. While dairy foods are an excellent source of calcium, there are plenty of other foods to help you heal, including kale, broccoli, bok choy, turnip greens, spinach, soy products and fortified orange juice.
Vitamin D is another bone-friendly nutrient. The best way to get it is from sun exposure, but there are foods you can eat to help boost your levels: egg yolks, salmon, mackerel, catfish, tuna, sardines, cod liver oil and mushrooms. If a blood test revealed you’re deficient in vitamin D, your doctor may recommend a supplement.
Injury: Knee surgery
No matter your surgery – ACL, meniscus, knee replacement – certain nutrients can help with wound-healing.
Eat: Protein, collagen and zinc
Research shows that protein is vital for a runner who is immobilised after surgery. The exact amount you need varies, but the study suggests about double the amount recommended for a healthy individual. Try meat, dairy, fish, legumes, beans, whole grains and seeds.
Meat is also a rich source of collagen, a connective tissue that promotes wound-healing. It’s best to choose lean meats, like chicken, fish, turkey, and pork – saturated fat can cause inflammation, delaying recovery.
Research has shown that a zinc deficiency may delay recovery time. Like protein, zinc can be found in meat, fish, chicken, dairy, whole grains, and beans.
Injury: Tendonitis or plantar fasciitis
Words ending in ‘itis’ mean inflammation. Not surprisingly, tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendon, and plantar fasciitis describes inflammation on the bottom of the foot. Tendonitis is a common injury resulting from overuse or repetitive motions. Drastically increasing your mileage in a short period of time or “running through the pain” can cause this injury.
Eat: Antioxidant-rich foods and good fats
If you’re suffering from an “itis”, eat the rainbow. Antioxidants – inflammation-fighting nutrients – are found in fruits and veggies. And, the darker the produce, the higher it is in antioxidants. When in doubt, opt for dark leafy greens, rich-coloured berries and vibrant root veggies.
While you may be hesitant to eat more fat when you’re less active, the good, unsaturated fat can actually combat inflammation. Add olive oil or avocado to your salad and dig into that walnut-crusted piece of fish.
Another “itis”, arthritis is inflammation in the joints. If you’re one of the many people who suffer from it, you know the true definition of creaky knees. There’s no one cure, but diet changes may ease some of your pain.
Found in meat, collagen is also a popular supplement that may improve arthritic symptoms. One study found that athletes who supplemented with 10 grams of collagen for 24 weeks experienced less joint pain than those who took a placebo.
Injury: Pulled hamstring
A pulled hamstring seems minor until you have one. The hamstrings are a group of three long muscles that run along the back of your thigh. A pull, which is very common in runners, is when the muscles stretch too much or have a small tear.
Eat: Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA)
BCAA – leucine, isoleucine and valine – may prevent muscle degradation, making them crucial for an already worn-down or pulled muscle. All three types of these amino acids can be found in chicken, steak, tuna, salmon and eggs. If you’re vegetarian or plant-based, there are BCAA supplements.