Sports nutritionist Matt Lovell gives his advice to eating well while sidelined

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Matt Lovell

Food expert: Kinetica Sports brand ambassador Matt Lovell

INJURY PROVIDES an opportunity to improve your body composition by lowering your body fat while you can also increase strength and power in your able limbs.

Although you will be far less active, adequate carbohydrate, protein and good fats are essential to maintain muscle mass and strength with regular rehab sessions, but you need to balance your food intake with your energy expenditure.

The foods you eat can also influence both the prevention and speed of healing, so it’s important to know what you should and shouldn’t be eating.

The basics
Inflammation is how the body repairs its tissues and how the immune system moves around the body. You need some inflammation to heal and stay well, but most people have too much. So you have to help the body have a normal inflammatory response by giving it the right foods.

Firstly, include the correct balance of essential fats in your diet. Good sources of fat include oily fish and some nuts and seeds. Bad sources include crisps, milk chocolate (dark is okay) and doughnuts. Secondly, make sure you eat an adequate amount of flavonoids – the stuff that gives veggies, spices and fruits colour.

Eat the rainbow
The bioflavonoids that keep fruits and vegetables brightly colored act as powerful antioxidants and this mechanism continues to work in the body, protecting the cells. They prevent excess inflammation and a high bioflavanoid intake is associated with a lower risk of heart attack and other diseases.

Vegetables

Market fresh: Eat as many different fruits and vegetables as possible. Photo: Reuters

Bioflavanoids are one reason why multi-colored salads, spices, herbs and a varied diet of fresh vegetables and fruits are highly recommended for maintaining optimal health and speedy healing.

Good sources of bioflavanoids are:
Citrus fruits, green tea, black tea, onions, parsley, legumes, red wine (max one glass per day), red cabbage, all dark red, orange, blue and purple berries, fruits and vegetables. Most of these foods are also high in vitamin C, which is an essential part of collagen formation.

Building blocks
The body is made up mainly of proteins, collagen and minerals. You need to eat a decent level of protein to provide the amino acids that protect your muscle mass as well as rebuild and repair body tissues. Additional building blocks are required for joint structures, ligaments and tendons. We can get these from eating proteins but a home-made broth is probably one of the richest sources.

Here is how you make a home-made broth, which is really good for you:
1. Put some animal bones, such as those from chicken, lamb, beef or fish, into a big pot of water and put it on a low heat.
2. Add vegetable peelings, leftover veggies, garlic, celery and carrots to enhance the flavour. (I also like to throw in some bay leaves, peppercorns and other spices.)
3. Bring the pot of water to the boil and then simmer for four to 24 hours. You can turn it off at night and bring it back to the boil the next day.
4. Once the broth has gained a deep colour and flavour, strain all the added ingredients through a sieve or colander. Then leave the broth to cool.
5. The fat should rise to the top and can be skimmed off or used for gravy. The rest will keep in the fridge for three to five days (ideally covered) or can be frozen for months.
6. Use your broth to make soups, or add it into sauces like Bolognese or chilli.

Rugby fans

Get cooking: These rugby fans could use their chicken bones to make a healthy broth. Photo: Reuters

Vitamins & minerals
Lipid peroxidation is a specific biomechanical mechanism, which causes damage to muscles. Studies have shown that an antioxidant-rich diet, specifically vitamins E and C, will inhibit this process, allowing better recovery from training, which in turn lowers injury risks.

Studies have also shown that any calcium or iron depletion will increase injury risks, since bones are weaker and muscles fatigue quicker, so ensure your diet includes plenty of these minerals. You need to get plenty of micronutrients to heal properly too. Key nutrients include vitamin D, omega 3 fats, magnesium, B vitamins, iron and calcium.

The key points

  • Eat adequate proteins and carbohydrates to facilitate recovery
  • Eat plenty of oily fish
  • Eat as many brightly coloured vegetables and fruits as possible
  • Make a broth at least once a week
  • Eat foods rich in vitamin C, like berries
  • Use lots of onions and garlic in your cooking
  • Use plenty of herbs and spices in your cooking, like ginger, turmeric, chili, paprika, cumin, rosemary, thyme, basil and oregano
  • Drink Chinese green tea regularly as well as other herbs teas, such as ginkgo tea teas
  • Use supplements where necessary to support your diet.

Kinetica Sports brand ambassador Matt Lovell is a nutritional therapist with a special interest in elite sports performance. Find out more at www.kineticasports.com