Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Eating for Recovery After Injury

July 11, 2018


Acute muscle strains and sprains remain one of the most common injuries we encounter at our Boulder Physical Therapy clinic.  In a previous blog post we summarized the findings of new research studies showing how early Physical Therapy accelerates a patient’s recovery after these injuries.  In addition, to exercise and sleep, nutrition also plays an important role in recovery.  A healthy, balanced diet is critical in post operative or injured patient.  

Collagen is a key structural protein in many of our body tissues including blood vessels, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.  It remains an essential natural resource utilized by our body during the healing process.  Many factors have been shown to reduce collagen production including smoking, simple sugars (candy, soda), and UV light.  These factors can damage proteins necessary for collagen formation and in turn healing.  

Conversely, collagen production is increased with exercise and may be augmented through nutrition and diet.  Nutritionists recommend a diet sufficient in protein due to its’ high content of amino acids especially leucine.  Leucine has been shown to both reduce the breakdown of muscle and enhance muscle synthesis in animal studies.  Key sources of leucine include chicken, cheese, eggs, whey and soy protein powder.  In addition to protein intake, colorful fruits and vegetables also play a key role in recovery due to the abundance of anti oxidents found in berries and vegetables.  The vitamins found in this food group facilitate muscle and soft tissue recovery.

There are numerous supplements claiming to accelerate recovery, but like most supplements many fail to demonstrate statistical significance above a placebo.  Small studies have found an accelerated recovery from injury when collagen and Vitamin C are combined in supplementation, but more research is needed before widespread use.  Outside of supplementation, gelatin and bone broths are found to have high contents of collagen. 

Patients are advised to follow up with a nutritionist and their medical doctor before any significant change in diet or beginning any nutritional supplement.