Managing your body composition when you’re injured


Injuries suck! Unfourtunatley they are a consequence of playing competitive sport. When you get injured there’s a sense of loss, you now can’t do the thing you love and your not sure what to do. This is a perfectly normal reaction, however, you have to be careful that you don’t get into a lull and start to feel sorry for yourself. You need to use it as an opportunity, you can take advantage, you can actually take a lot of control of what you do to help yourself get back from injury. And nutrition is a really big part of this.


Nutrition, the missing link

Nutrition often gets overlooked as you’re obviously focusing heavily on the actual physiotherapy and rehabilitation. However, nutrition can actually help the healing process and fuel the rehabilitation training that you’re going to be going through because oftentimes, rehabilitation can be almost a harder training stimulus than actual sports training or even competition itself. You’ve got to be careful when you get injured to not get complacent and start to binge eat and start eating terrible food just because you feel sorry for yourself. It’s not a good idea to have to go so far backwards then to pull yourself through the mud to get yourself back into shape. You should be able to maintain your shape pretty comfortably with a few simple strategies.


Adjust your food intake

Now this comes with a caveat because you need to eat enough to aid and repair. By under eating you can potentially be impairing your bodies recovery processes although if you eat too much (poor quality food inparticular), you may start to gain unwanted body fat. This can impact your performance when you return to sport. If you are heavier and that extra weight isn’t muscle mass, and you haven’t increased your strength enough to tolerate that extra weight gain, your risk for re-injury or even potentially a new injury significantly increases. You have to be careful to create this balance. Interestingly enough that when you get injured, your basal metabolic rate (energy expenditure without exercise) actually increases a little bit to help with this repair process. Your body is trying to shuttle more nutrients to the injured area. However, because you have stopped normal training and potential energy expenditure through exercise volume has now reduced (compared to when you weren’t injured), you may have to eat less total calories to avoid any excess weigh gain.


Measure to avoid guessing

It’s important to measure your body composition on a regular basis anyway and when you get injured it’s important to measure it at the start of the injury and just monitor it as you’re going through the rehabilitation process. You really just need it to stay stable. You don’t necessarily need to decrease body fat unless that was a part of you getting injured in the first place. The other number to focus on is your lean muscle mass to make sure that you’re not losing too much, if any, muscle tissue. It obviously can happen if it’s a bad enough injury and an area is immobile for long enough you’re going to see some atrophy (muscle wastage). You will get the muscle back with good rehabilitation. By measuring your body composition, you can also measure whether the rehabilitation program is working. Best case scenario, if you’re coming toward the back end of the injury process and you are a leaner and more muscular athlete, you’re going to return to sport bigger and better than ever. One of your goals should be to come out of rehab and be ten times better than you were when you entered. This is going to increase your relative strength which is really important for sports performance, the best athletes in the world have the best relative strength. They’re the ones that can handle their body with higher forces, so the stronger and leaner you are the better you’re going to be in the long run.