Did you know that on average, a football team suffers 50 injuries per sports season? In fact, the risk of injury is an inevitable event and inherent to every type of sport, leading to extremely negative physical and psychological consequences for the athlete. Even as I am writing this I am nursing a lower back injury which is preventing me from running.
Generally, a sports injury involves stopping or slowing down the intensity and frequency of the physical activity, or even a total or partial immobilisation of the affected body part. The result? A decrease in muscle mass, strength and functional muscle capacity, with increased inflammation. Moreover, during the first two weeks, a loss of 150-400 g of muscle tissue may occur.
The reason: muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and muscle protein breakdown (MPB)
The mechanism responsible for the changes at muscle level is the balance between muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and muscle protein breakdown (MPB). During injury periods, there is a decrease in fasting MPS, a transitory increase in MPB, and a higher anabolic resistance . These changes come with an increase in local adiposity and a decrease in insulin sensitivity.
It is therefore understandable that all nutritional strategies that allow to mitigate these effects will speed up recovery and decrease the time and impact of the inactivity. The first concern is to ensure a positive energy intake, even if it leads to some fat mass gain, since an energy deficit may decrease MPS by 20-30%, resulting in greater muscle loss.
The goal is to maximise protein synthesis
Regarding protein, the goal is to increase its daily intake to 2-2.5 g of protein/kg of body weight, uniformly split into 5-6 meals. The goal is to maximise protein synthesis, mitigating muscle mass loss and ensuring that tissue regeneration is not compromised. Meat, fish, eggs, milk proteins (whey and casein) and soya are good food options that allow to maximise MPS and thereby avoid the loss of muscle mass.
Nutrition strategies for recovery
There are also some supplements that can help in the process of recovery:
The intake of 20 g/day (divided over 4 times) during 5 days, followed by the continuous intake of 5 g/day seems to decrease muscle atrophy and increase strength gain and functional capacity during rehabilitation.
Supplementing with 3 g/day of HMB is effective in the prevention of exercise-induced muscle damage and in preserving muscle mass.
Supplementing with 4 g/day seems to increase amino acid sensitivity, helping counterbalance anabolic resistance.
The prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency is high and may reach 84%. Vitamin D exerts a regulatory effect on calcium flux, mineral homoeostasis, and on signalling the metabolic pathways that control protein anabolism in the muscle tissue. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with faster muscle loss and a decrease in strength and muscle contraction ability. Supplementing is advisable, especially during Winter and Spring, as well as for athletes who spend a lot of time indoors without sun exposure.