Spring is here in NYC, the weather is warming up and it seems everyone is out walking, running or cycling! As we dive into the spring and summer training seasons, it’s important to focus on proper nutrition not just to power your workouts, but to prevent and treat potential injuries. We make sure to crosstrain, strengthen and rest our bodies to keep them at their strongest, but what about what we’re putting into our bodies? Whether you’re injury prone or not, take a look at your diet and follow these simple nutrition tips to stay injury free this season:
→ Take in enough calories. Eating too little is one of the biggest mistakes athletes can make when it comes to their diet. Even if you’re goals include losing a few pounds, you need to provide your body with enough nutrients to fuel your workouts and for your muscles to recover afterward. Chronically consuming too few calories will leave you feeling fatigued and unable to perform at your best!
→ Don’t skimp on any macronutrients! Although individual needs vary based on height, weight, gender and activity level, we ALL need carbohydrates, protein and fats every day. Carbohydrates are our friends because they provide energy during our workouts and help replete muscle glycogen (our stored energy) when consumed post-workout. Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle tissues and enhancing immune function. And don’t forget the fat! Incorporating healthy fats (think avocado, olive oil and nuts!) helps to fight inflammation and reduce muscle soreness.
→ Time it right! Equally as important as what and how much you eat is WHEN you eat it! Avoid running on empty by consuming a carbohydrate-rich snack or meal prior to your workout. Boost recovery (and therefore prevent injury) by eating within 30-60 minutes after exercise. Proper fueling and refueling can decrease recovery time and keep you at your best.
→ Sweat the small stuff. In addition to enough overall calories, make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals like calcium, Vitamin D, iron, zinc and magnesium. Calcium is important for building strong bones and preventing injuries like stress fractures, but did you know it also plays a role in preventing muscle cramps? Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption and can be found in milk, fish, eggs and many fortified foods. Iron not only transports oxygen to the muscles, but is essential to the reactions that create energy. Zinc and magnesium are important for muscle tissue repair and a healthy immune system!
If you’ve already suffered an injury that has left you on the sidelines, don’t get discouraged. Remember that proper nutrition (along with rest and some good physical therapy J) can help get you back in the game! Visit a Registered Dietitian to create an individualized meal plan that incorporates your goals and works for you.
by Kim Hoban
Kim Hoban is a Registered Dietitian with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, living and running in New York City. Follow her on twitter (@KimHobanRD) or on her blog for more nutrition and health tips!