Nutrition through injury
Example based on a female, 46 years, 1.70m, 62kg
- Club level runner, regularly competing in road, cross country and fell races (up to marathon distance)
- Trains with a club 2x per week and have weekly mileage of around 50 miles per week
- Has always thought she has a good knowledge of nutrition and fuelling for her longer races
- Has a chronic ankle injury which she now requires surgery on which will mean 3 months rehabilitation and a large proportion of this time non-weight bearing
She has two main concerns about her nutrition during this time:
- How to adjust energy intake to support healing post surgery but also avoid weight gain with the period of inactivity (she reported she is always hungry!)
- What key nutrients does she need to support healing?
- Food diary analysis carried out to assess current dietary intake which was reported to be maintaining weight.
- Highlighted low omega 3, vitamin C, calcium and protein intake (athlete is vegetarian)
- Typical eating pattern includes frequent snacking throughout the day to support the training load
The focus of the intervention:
- Education around energy and nutrient requirements to prepare for and in the initial post-surgery phase (this is not the time to be cutting back on energy intake!)
- Optimising micronutrient status with a food first approach.
- Example plan is given for adjusting energy intake post surgery.
- The focus of this was developing a structure to her day (when not at work and out of routine) sticking to meal times and planning snacks helped to avoid boredom eating.
- Increase in good quality vegetarian sources of protein to make sure she was meeting requirements to optimise healing and also to help minimise hunger and cravings.
- During review sessions we worked on developing plans for when she was back training, she tried new recipes and did some batch cooking to stock up the freezer.
- She commented that seeing nutrition as her ‘training’ during this time, helped to keep some focus and motivation each day and she maintained her weight within 2kg of her pre-surgery throughout the recovery period.
- Often runners can be in a well-established routine with their diet for training and periods of injury can be a key time where an increasing focus on nutrition can make a big difference to both recoveries and return to running!
Disclaimer: Case study examples are highly specific to the individual, goals set may not be right for anyone else, even if the presentation sounds similar to you.
Individualised nutrition assessment is key!