‘Recovery’ nutrition helps prevent athletic injuries

| March 3, 2011 | 0 Comments

Maj. Vancil McNulty
U.S. Army Public Health Command (Provisional)



ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — The old saying “you are what you eat” was popularized by an English nutritionist who was a strong believer in the idea that food controls health.

Dr. Victor Lindlahr published a book in the 1940s called “You Are What You Eat: How to Win and Keep Health with Diet.”

The last 70 years of nutrition research has provided ample evidence that Lindlahr was right; good nutrition has a profound positive influence on our health.

We also now understand how important “recovery” nutrition is for athletes and how it plays a role in the prevention of injury.

March is National Nutrition Month, a good time to understand how strenuous exercise — such as endurance running, sprinting or resistance training — depletes energy and causes muscle damage.

If depleted energy isn’t replaced and muscle damage is not repaired adequately, injury and reduced physical performance will occur. For example, studies about women who exercise show a negative energy-balance is a risk factor for bone stress fractures.

The timing of nutritional intervention is critical. Both civilian and military research prove that consuming certain food at the right time will restore energy balance, overcome fatigue, minimize muscle damage, promote recovery and protect against heat injury.

Research shows that consuming a combination of carbohydrates and protein within a 60-minute window immediately following very strenuous exercise initiates repair of muscles damaged during the activity and begins the replenishment of muscles’ energy stores.

In fact, this recommendation is the only one from the Joint Services Physical Training Injury Prevention Work Group related to nutrition and its effect in the prevention of musculoskeletal injury.

During this time, the body is primed for rebuilding what was used or broken down during the exercise. If nutrients are consumed more than 60 minutes after the end of the exercise, the body is less able to absorb the nutrients, thus diminishing the rate of recovery.

The ideal balance of nutrients for the most rapid replenishment of muscle to optimize and accelerate the recovery process is roughly 12 to 18 grams of protein and 50 to 75 grams of carbohydrate, or a ratio of 1 gram of protein for every 4 grams of carbohydrates.

Common foods with protein and carbohydrate content

(about 7 grams each)

1 egg white

1 ounce cheese

1 ounce meat (chicken, fish, beef)

1 cup milk

One-quarter cup nuts

2 tablespoons peanut butter

(about 15 grams each)

One-half cup of fruit juice

Small piece of fruit

1 ounce cereal

1 piece of bread

One-half cup pasta

One-half cup rice


Category: Army News Service, Community, Health

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