Let’s face the facts – sports injuries are common and very unfortunate. The best way to prevent a sports injury is to listen to your body and rest when rest is required. It is also essential to provide the body with optimal nutrition for repair and muscle regeneration. Unfortunately, I learnt this a little too late – and if you are reading this, maybe you have too!
If you have been driven to the last resort of an operation, like I was, you may want to read up on some measures that you can take after leaving the operating theater. Once the doctor’s work is done, it’s your time to play the part. I did some research on post-op nutrition and here is some of the info I found. This looks into the psychological impact as well as the commonly known nutrients to focus on to aid recovery.
The psychological impact
For those of you who don’t know me, I am usually the ‘glass half full’ type of person. I thrive on problem solving and enjoy being a positive, happy person. Having a positive outlook and vision of recovery has shown to improve recovery periods and result in less pain and anxiety. Unfortunately, I battled here. Being stuck, having to ask for help and being left out of physical activities played havoc on my mind and I started feeling a bit anxious and defeated. I wasn’t sure I had made the right decision and started to get frustrated with my recovery. I was happy to read that this is a completely normal feeling to have after an operation! For some reason, after reading that this feeling is normal I felt almost 100% happier. (So why not share that with you)
If reading it doesn’t help…here are some other ideas that helped me: I took up swimming, set myself goals and tried to keep active by going to the beach. I also tried out some light weight training for my upper body. Being outdoors lifted my mood (as well as increasing my vitamin D from sunlight). Exercise made me feel better and used up some of my excess energy.
After any kind of surgery, no matter how big or small, the body needs to rebuild, repair and recover. Apart from recovering from the actual operation, the body needs to repair tissues and replace fluids that may have been compromised during the operation. (3) Since your body is working overtime, it makes sense that you will require additional calories as your metabolism speeds up. Proteins and certain vitamins of most important as deprivation may hinder your body’s natural healing process. (3)
As muscle tissue is damaged, the body needs to use fuel to repair and build new muscle. Focus on increasing your protein intake by including foods such as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, full-fat plain yogurt, ricotta or cottage cheese, beans and raw nuts.
If you are depriving your body of adequate protein and fuel, fat tissue and protein stores (lean muscle mass) may be broken down in order to meet the energy requirements. (5) This will result in muscle loss, weight loss and increased acidity in the body.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Although these may not be directly related to recovery, I feel they cannot be forgotten. Omega 3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory role in the body. When the body goes through stress or an operation, inflammation occurs and this needs to be managed. We are all so quick to grab the pills, but why not try out some commonly known anti-inflammatory foods too. Try including oily fish and seafood, walnuts, flaxseed powder and chia seeds.
It may seem an obvious one but sometimes we forget that we need to be eating a varied diet in order to meet our vitamin and mineral requirements. I thought it was quite useful to know which vitamins to focus on, to assist the body with healing.
Vitamin A, C, D and vitamin E came up in most studies.
Vitamin A supports collagen strength and is also beneficial for bone development. Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning that you should consume it with a fat in order to maximise absorption in the body. Include foods such as sweet potatoes (great as they also supply the body with energy), carrots, spinach, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, bell pepper and tropical fruits.
Vitamin C is a common antioxidant which is known to support the immune system. After an operation, your immune system may be down as the body’s resources are directed to the area of repair. Supplementing with vitamin C to support the immune system will help ward off infection, and improve recovery. Include foods such as citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwis, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and spinach.
Vitamin D assists with calcium absorption. It is mainly obtained through sunlight and just 15 – 20minutes of sunlight a day has shown great increases in vitamin D levels. This is important as calcium is necessary for muscle health.
Vitamin E is also an antioxidant and, combined with vitamin C, is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. (6) Include foods such as almonds (very high in vitamin E), hazelnuts, raw seeds, spinach and kale.
It’s interesting that a lot of the food requirements overlap – i.e. eating spinach will provide the body with vitamin A, C and E. Check out my mini muffin frittatas as these provide a lot of the required vitamins for recovery, as well as being high in protein! (Win!)
Zinc is known to improve muscle recovery, as well as supporting the immune system. Include foods such as lean beef, cooked seafood, spinach, pumpkin seeds and cashew nuts.
Calcium is required for muscle as well as bone health. Include foods such as dairy, kale, spinach, raw almonds, broccoli and green beans.
Staying hydrated is essential. Ensure that you are drinking at least 2L of water a day and try to stay away from caffeinated beverages. Coffee, tea and cola may increase the acidity in the body, as well as being dehydrators. Best to stick to water, coconut water and drinks that contain electrolytes. Fluids are beneficial to prevent dehydration, but also to help the body metabolise vitamins and other nutrients. (3)
It goes without saying that drugs, alcohol and excessive sugar will hinder the body’s healing process. While the body will need to focus on detoxifying the drugs, alcohol and sugar, your recovery needs will be neglected. Try stick away from these nasty tricksters!
So I have been trying to stick to most of these guidelines, straying now and again (as most humans would). Finding positivity has been my struggle but that does not mean I am defeated. By changing my outlook on this, I hope to achieve the best results from my surgery.
I hope that by sharing this information, you are able to use these guidelines to make a speedy recovery!