If you’re an athlete or an avid sports player, you’ve probably experienced some sort of sport-related injury. Unfortunately, when it comes to sports and athletics, injuries are part of the game. However, there are some things you can incorporate into your routine nutritionally that can improve bone health and prevent sports injuries.
Try these 5 tips to improve your performance and reduce your risk for injuries.
Eat Enough Protein
Protein isn’t just important for supporting healthy muscle mass, it’s also important for strong and healthy bones. Surprisingly, bones are made up of about 50% protein.
Getting enough protein in your diet not only increases lean muscle mass and strength, but it can help improve bone health and prevent injuries. Studies show that diets high in protein increase calcium absorption and decrease the rate of bone breakdown.
Research also suggests that increased protein intake, even in older women, improves bone density and results in fewer fractures.
Experts believe that spreading your protein evenly throughout the day at meals and snacks may stimulate more muscle growth, thereby, decreasing your risk for sports-related injuries. Studies also show that having a protein-rich snack before bed can increase your body’s muscle-repairing abilities while you sleep.
Take a Collagen Supplement
Collagen is one of the most widely researched supplements when it comes to sports and injury prevention. Multiple studies suggest that taking a collagen protein supplement may decrease your risk for injury.
One study, in particular, showed that a daily dose of collagen protein produced an improvement in sport-related joint discomfort when compared to the results of the placebo group.
Experts believe that a collagen supplement derived from grass-fed animals or wild caught seafood are of higher quality and effectiveness when compared to others.
Naked Collagen fits the bill with its collagen peptides sourced from grass-fed cows in Europe.
If you’ve been experiencing activity-related joint pain, or just want to prevent bone and joint problems from occurring, adding a daily collagen supplement to your diet can help.
Eat Calcium-Rich Foods
Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in your bones. It’s also the most important nutrient for bone health.
As part of the body’s natural processes, old bone cells are always being broken down and replaced with new ones. Because of this, it’s important to consume enough calcium in your diet every day.
The recommended amount of calcium per day for most people is 1000 mg. Some experts believe that athletes may need more calcium, ranging from 1200-1500 mg per day. This is because athletes lose more minerals (e.g. calcium, magnesium, sodium, and phosphorus) through perspiration than the average person.
Eating a variety of calcium-rich foods spaced evenly throughout the day can help increase your body’s absorption of this important mineral. While dairy foods contain high amounts of calcium, there are also many plant-based sources of calcium.
Food Sources of Calcium
- Seeds – particularly chia, poppy, sesame, and celery seeds
- Dairy – cheese, milk, yogurt
- Sardines and canned salmon
- Beans and lentils
- Whey protein
- Dark leafy greens – collard greens, spinach, and kale
- Edamame and tofu
- Fortified foods and drinks
To improve bone health and prevent injuries, try to include a variety of different calcium-containing foods in your diet, and eat them throughout the day.
Avoid Low-Calorie Diets
As an athlete, fueling your body for performance is of the utmost importance. Whether recreational or professional, athletes have significantly higher energy needs than the average person. It’s important that you eat enough food to support your body’s needs.
If you are an athlete and you aren’t properly fueling your body, your risk for injury goes up tenfold. Not supplying your body with the energy it needs to perform and repair itself can have serious consequences.
Calorie restriction reduces performance and increases muscle breakdown. Studies have also shown that eating too few calories for an extended period of time can reduce bone density in individuals of varying body types. Decreased bone density can increase your risk for exercise-related injuries.
Specific energy recommendations vary from person to person depending on age, sex, weight, and activity level. If you’re not sure how to figure out your energy needs, work with a registered dietitian to find out.
Don’t Leave Fat Out
Dietary fat has a bad reputation, but it’s an important part of anyone’s diet, particularly the diet of an athlete. Fat helps create healthy cell membranes that are resistant to damage that occurs during exercise.
Some studies have shown that a higher dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids can have a beneficial effect on bone health. Improved bone health means a reduced risk of injury.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also well-known for their anti-inflammatory properties. These properties can prevent small injuries from turning into more serious, chronic injuries. One study by the University of Buffalo showed that fat intake in female runners was the biggest dietary predictor of exercise-related injuries.
Participants that had the lowest injury risk consumed around 30% of daily calories from fat. This is a good number to aim for as long as you’re consuming the right kinds of fat. Limit saturated fat to less than 10% of your daily calorie intake, and try to get around 3000 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids daily.
Sports injuries are common among professional athletes, weekend warriors, and recreational athletes in the community.
A high-quality diet that consists of adequate calories from protein, fat, and carbohydrates, and is high in vitamins and minerals can improve bone health and prevent injuries.
You can also try adding a collagen protein supplement to your daily routine to prevent or improve joint health.