If you compete at a high level, then you’ve likely had to deal with an injury, be it small and nagging or season-ending and significant. Regardless of its severity, there are common contributors that directly lead to most injuries. One of the main contributors is incomplete recovery from consecutive bouts of high-intensity training or competition. This scenario of incomplete recovery can result in subsequent underperformance and injury. However, proper nutrition is key to helping aid and quicken recovery. A second main contributor to sports injuries is free radicals and inflammation.
A direct cause of inflammation is an increase in the production of free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive oxidized molecules that cause damage to cells. So, you may be wondering where free radicals come from. When you exercise, one of the major byproducts of muscle contraction is free radicals. The more training an athlete performs, the more free radicals are generated, and these levels build up over time. To combat this effect, antioxidants can be incorporated into a diet to help to reduce and neutralize the number of free radicals in the body.
The job of antioxidants is to help repair the cellular damage caused by free radicals and neutralize their damaging effects. Antioxidants are in the body naturally and take the form of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin A, selenium, and zinc. When antioxidants are at sub-optimal levels, an athlete should consider a diet rich in antioxidants. This type of diet should incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, poultry, fatty fish, and nuts and seeds. On a daily basis an athlete should consume green tea, blueberries, apples, citrus fruits, broccoli, and pineapples, as well as spices like garlic and turmeric (often found in curry powder). Additionally, flavonoids, which act in plants as an antioxidant, can help manage inflammation through their antioxidant properties. Foods high in flavonoids include cocoa, tea, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
The bottom line is this; there is a direct and scientific link between sports performance, injury prevention and nutrition. If you train hard, be sure to maintain a diet rich with food high in antioxidants so that you can stay on the field and play whatever game it is that you love.