Protein was around before the concept of exercise and muscular development, it is needed for much, much more than ‘getting hench’ or ‘getting swole’! In fact, protein is needed for pretty much every function in the body, not least for its role in recovery and wound repair. Like external injuries, an internal one needs time and protection in order to heal, and one of the main reasons a muscle strain or skin tear needs time, is because of the growth and regeneration that occurs courtesy of protein. You may be side- lined because of a cut or laceration, and although many will want to soldier on and train/ play/ perform regardless, the fact is that this may not be possible. So in order to get back to doing what it is you want to do, give your body the specific nutrients it so desperately needs to fix itself.
Wounds = Increased Protein and energy requirements
Many people will fail to increase their nutritional intake to accommodate a wound or injury. Yes, there is a fine line here, and the amount of calories and protein needed will depend on the extent of the wound, but failing to give the body what it needs during injury is sure to stunt repair. It is very easy to overdo the calories though, especially during a period of relative inactivity…so what to do? Well, if your wound is multiple layered i.e. has penetrated both the skin and muscle and is of a significant size, then it is expected that one’s BMR can increase by up to 10%. The elevated calorie requirements are important because it prevents secondary weight loss and reductions in your hard earned gains. This is also important because an increase in calories is usually accompanied by an increase in micronutrients i.e. vitamins and minerals (provided the food is nutritionally balanced), which are also integral to repair. In a fit and muscular person, a flesh wound and the subsequent rise in calorie requirements are not likely to be detrimental to overall health (unless it’s severe). A smaller person with fewer nutritional reserves (fat and muscle) may find that flesh wounds take a long time to repair without adequate protein and calories. A good rule of thumb for healing would be to consume around 30-35kcal per kg body weight, and 1 to 1.5g protein per kg body weight per day. For big guys or girls who train regularly and have a lot muscle mass, this protein intake may seem low, but it is relative to the individual meaning even the big guys will need to maintain their protein intake when injured if they don’t want to dip into those hard earned gains for replenishment!
Speed up healing – Protein, Carbs and Fat
You can generally speed up healing by identifying and replacing the key nutrients needed for repair. A balance of protein, carbs and fat is integral. Fats are broken down into free fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats, these are used to repair cell membranes whilst saturated fatty acids are used as a fuel source for repair. Not including adequate fat in your diet will result in impaired healing and recovery. Omega- 6 fatty acids improve skin hydration and elasticity, which in turn promotes tissue redevelopment. It is worth noting that although omega- 3 fatty acids are of great benefit to the body as a whole, a diet rich in these fats may slow surface wound healing due to reduced platelet aggregation, fibroblastic processes and maturation phases of healing. Carbs have a major part to play as they are one of the main components of glycoproteins, a key player in structure and communication roles during healing. If carbs are low and protein is insufficient during wound healing, the body will have no choice but to dip into your hard earned muscle mass to heal…not what you want!
Wound healing is a complex process, and a full review on the role of nutrition and healing is far beyond the scope of this article. However, hopefully this goes some way to highlighting the unquestionable importance of protein and wellbeing, particularly during times of injury. In order to maximise your chances of recovery from wounds or injury the rules are simple. Ensure that you consume adequate protein and calories to supply the needs of wound healing. Be sure not to go over the top through risk of gaining excess weight, but make sure your food is nutritious in order to deliver the full range of macronutrients, vitamins and minerals to provide the body with the tools it needs to repair.