How to Eat to Heal Sports Injuries

What is going on in the body?

Acute injuries include dislocation, fracture, wounds, sprains or strains, and contusions. Overuse injuries include bursitis, inflammation, loose cartilage, stress fracture, and tendinitis. Tissue repair comprises several phases including inflammation, proliferation, and remodeling. Interruption in one of the steps in tissue repair can prolong the inflammatory response, leading to poor wound healing and loss of muscle mass. An athletes diet during this time is critical. It can determine if they are back to training and competing in just a few weeks, or if the recovery time will be extended longer. 

What is the recommendation for healing?

Whole  food plant based diet. Minimal processed foods and minimal animal products.

Increase omega-3 consumption through diet, specifically EPA and DHA. Food sources of omega-3s include avocado, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and leafy greens such as spinach and kale.

Post training tart cherry juice consumption of 12-24 oz.

During the proliferative and remodeling phases of repair, vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper may be beneficial.

Protein needs may be increased post injury, as high as 2 to 2.5 g/kg, higher than the recommendation of 1.2 to 2 g/kg for athletes.

Recommendations for total water intake from food and beverage are, for males, 2.4 L/day for ages 9–13, 3.3 L/day for ages 14–18 and 3.7 L/day for age 19 and older. For females, recommendations are 2.1 L/day for ages 9–13, 2.3 L/day for ages 14–18, and 2.7 L/day for age 19 and older.

Recommended that saturated fats, including fattier cuts of beef and pork, processed meats, poultry skin, cheese, and butter, should be limited to <10% of daily caloric intake to avoid chronic inflammation.

Happy snacking!


  1. “Inflammation.” Nutrition and Diagnosis-Related Care, by Sylvia Escott-Stump, 8th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2015, pp. 821.


  3. “Illness/Injury Prevention/Rehabilitation.” Sports Nutrition: a Handbook for Professionals: Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition Dietetics Practice Group, by Christine Karpinski and Christine Rosenbloom, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2017, pp. 280-281.



  6. Harmon R, Ayesta A; Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietetic Association. Nutritional support for injury recovery and return-to-play.


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