Protein and its Role in Injury Prevention and Recovery

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Athletes and patients often ask me questions about nutrition. From my experience as a coach, therapist and athlete I’ve gleaned some knowledge on the topic.  As we all know proper nutrition is key for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Our diet not only affects our athletic performance, but it also plays an important role in how quickly we recover from injuries, and helps prevent injury in the first place. 

A protein rich diet is particularly critical for athletes.  Everyone needs protein for rebuilding and repairing the body, but it’s especially important for patients recovering from injury and for endurance athletes. During injury rehabilitation we are trying to repair injured connective tissue (muscle, nerves, fascia, tendons and ligaments). Athletes in training are trying to build muscle at the same time their muscles and connective tissues are undergoing micro tearing. This is where protein comes in! The primary job of protein in the body is to repair tissue, including muscle cells that were damaged from exercising to the point of fatigue.   

Protein is processed by the body in small quantities, so nutritionists recommend that we take in protein throughout the entire day, at every meal and with snacks. Most athletes are aware of the importance of taking in protein after a workout, especially within the first hour. But many athletes do not realize the importance of taking in protein throughout the whole day. The protein requirement for athletes is about 60% higher than non-active counterparts. If we rely solely on stuffing ourselves with a high protein meal one hour after a workout, we do not have enough protein in our systems for repair and rebuilding.  

So what foods are high in protein? Here is a list of a few healthy sources that pack a lot of protein per serving: lean roasted meats and fish, red beans, cooked eggs, low-fat yogurt, skim milk, fresh nuts and nut butter with no added sugar (peanut, almond, cashew). 

One of my favorite go to’s immediately after a workout is chocolate skim milk. I also like gluten free protein balls for snacks. Do you have a favorite recipe high in protein? Share with us on our CoachAmyPT Facebook page. We’d love to have you chime in!