Being injured is one of the hardest parts of being an athlete. If and when you do get injured, you’ll likely wonder how to eat better to heal better. My motherly advice is: Don’t treat good nutrition like a fire engine!
Rather than shaping up your diet when you get injured,strive to maintain a high quality food intake every day. That way, you'll have a hefty bank account of vitamins and minerals stored in your liver, ready and waiting to be put into action. For example, a well-nourished athlete has enough vitamin C (important for healing) stored in the liver to last for about six weeks. The junk food junkie who gets a serious sports injury (think bike crash,skiing tumble, hockey blow) and ends up in the hospital has a big disadvantage. Eat smart every day!
The fear of gaining weight plagues most injured athletes.Here are two myths, debunked!
MYTH: Muscle turns into fat.
Wrong. If you are unable to exercise, your muscles will shrink, but they will not turn into fat. Have you ever seen the scrawny muscles on a person who has just had a cast removed when the broken bone has healed? Those muscles did not get fat!
MYTH: Lack of exercise means you'll get fat.
Wrong. If you overeat while you are injured (as can easily happen if you are bored or depressed), you can indeed easily get fat. I know of many frustrated athletes who have quickly gained weight because they continued to eat lumberjack portions. But if you eat mindfully, your body can regulate a proper intake. Before diving into meals and snacks, ask yourself, “How much of this fuel does my body actually need?” Eat for fuel, not entertainment.
When injured, some underweight athletes do gain to their genetic weight. For example, a 13-year-old gymnast perceived her body was “getting fat” while she recuperated from a knee injury. She was simply catching up and attaining the physique appropriate for her age and genetics.
Whatever you do, don't skimp on protein and calories when injured ... that will delay healing.
I just dont have time to run or go to the gym the way Id like to. Im in a demanding semester at grad school and I barely have time to breathe. If I take a semester off from the gym and just try to walk as much as I can as a part of my day, will I get fat? I am afraid to stop working out four times a week
I could hear the fear and frustration in my clients voice. I assured her she could exercise less and not gain weight. In fact, I generally separate exercise from weight management, particularly with women. Exercise has little impact on a womans weight. Exercise, in fact, often increases a womans appetite so she wants to eat more after a workout.
If you are fearful of taking time off from exercise, whether for grad school, injuries, or other reasons that limit your time to exercise, fear not. You may lose fitness, but you need not gain fatness. The trick is to eat mindfully, according to hunger -- not according to boredom. The mindless eating that accompanies boredom and loneliness contributes to fat gain.
If you listen to your body and eat when you are hungry, then stop when you are content, you can maintain weight, even without exercise. (Just look at the number of people in a hospital who lose weight even without exercise; they create a calorie deficit that is essential to lose undesired body fat.) I told my client to eat when she was hungry, stop when she was content, and trust that her body could regulate the proper intake without micro-management of diet and exercise. She just needed to trust this process. Easier said than done!
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