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Five Dietary Changes that Can Help Athletes Recover Faster from Broken Bones

Posted on August 09, 2018 by Joe Fleming

Posey-injuryFrom Titans’ running back Leon Washington to Giants’ catcher Buster Posey, athletes throughout the years have had a history of breaking bones. Fractures are one of the most common injuries an athlete can deal with, and, considering the amount of time they take to fully heal, they’re not exactly fun to face.

Getting diagnosed with a fracture is never pleasant. But, did you know that there are dietary changes you can make that will speed up the recovery process and get you back in the game faster?

Whether you’re a professional or an amateur athlete, these nutrition tips will help you heal and become more resilient to future injuries.

1. Consume Sufficient Calcium

You probably grew up being told to drink your milk to keep your bones healthy and strong. Well, your mom was right. Although, you don’t necessarily need to drink milk or eat other dairy products to get sufficient amounts of calcium.

If you don’t tolerate dairy, you can get plenty of calcium from the following food sources:

  • Broccoli

  • Collard or turnip greens

  • Kale

  • Bok choy

  • Canned fish (tuna, salmon, and sardines — just make sure they haven’t been deboned)

  • Almond milk

You can also use a calcium supplement if you feel that you need additional help meeting the minimum daily requirement (anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams per day).

2. Get Plenty of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is another important nutrient that plays a major role in helping you maintain bone health and your immunity. Many adults and teenagers are deficient in vitamin D — about three-fourths of the population. As a result, they’re not absorbing the amount of calcium they need to promote bone health and healing. This means that, if you’re consuming adequate calcium but not vitamin D, you’re not reaping all of the mineral’s important benefits.

The easiest and most efficient way to increase your vitamin D levels is to spend time in the sun. You don’t want to get burned, of course, but spending 15 minutes with the sun on your skin will help you naturally produce the vitamin D that your body needs to thrive.

You can also get vitamin D from food sources like fatty fish (salmon, sardines, etc.), organ meats, and egg yolks. It’s also found in cod liver oil. Shoot for at least 600 IU of vitamin D each day.

3. Eat a Sufficient Amount of Protein

Protein is an essential macronutrient, and many people could benefit from eating more of it. Athletes who are trying to heal a broken bone should be extra diligent about making sure they’re eating enough protein.

Approximately half of bone tissue is made of protein. When you experience a fracture, the body calls on proteins to help rebuild the bone.

When you consume adequate amounts of protein, your production of insulin-like growth factor-1 (also known as IGF-1) increases. This is a polypeptide that has a positive effect on muscle strength, bone renewal, and skeletal integrity — all of which are essential for recovering from a fracture.

You don’t need to start chowing down on 16-ounce steaks or drinking a dozen protein shakes a day to see benefits, though. Many studies show that adding just 10-20 extra grams of protein to your diet can make a big difference.

Good sources of protein include:

  • Meat, fish, and poultry

  • Eggs

  • Full-fat dairy

  • Legumes

  • Soy

You can also supplement with a protein powder if you’re having a hard time getting sufficient protein from food alone.

4. Eat More Anti-Inflammatory Foods

When you break a bone, one of the most important dietary changes you can make is increasing your consumption of antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory foods. Fractures cause an increase in free radical production — free radicals cause stress and damage to the tissues of the body and promote inflammation.

Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals and prevent them from causing damage. As a result, your body has an easier time healing from fractures and other injuries.

Anti-inflammatory foods are often rich in the following nutrients:

  • Vitamin C

  • Vitamin E

  • Lycopene

  • Alpha-lipoic acid

  • Flavonols like quercetin and proanthocyanidins

  • Omega-3 fatty acids

Some of the best anti-inflammatory foods include avocados, turmeric, extra-virgin olive oil, berries, and dark chocolate.

5. Avoid Foods that Slow Healing

Finally, while increasing your consumption of foods that promote health and healing, it’s also important to avoid foods that slow down the healing process, including the following:

  • Alcoholic beverages (alcohol slows bone healing as your body has to halt other processes to eliminate it as quickly as possible)

  • Salt and sodium-rich foods (they can cause you to lose calcium through your urine)

  • Caffeine (more than four cups per day has been shown to slow bone healing)

  • Soda (it’s been shown to reduce bone mineral density and increase fracture risk)

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