• Call us (213) 742-1000
  • donate

Language

Sports Medicine

Nutrition Guidelines for Young Athletes

Consider the following nutrition recommendations from a Sports Dietitian on how to recover from injury and return to sport quickly and safely: 


 

Nutrition for Injury Recovery & Healing

Suffering an injury can be a major setback for a young athlete. Luckily, with the proper treatment and rehabilitation, an athlete can recover quickly and return back to their level of play in a timely manner. Part of this treatment plan includes proper nutrition, which can accelerate healing, prevent re-injury and support high levels of performance.

Consider the following nutrition recommendations from a Sports Dietitian on how to recover from injury and return to sport quickly and safely:

Hydration

  • Proper hydration with water not only maintains strength and integrity of cells, tissues and joints, but also improves blood flow; facilitating the delivery of healing nutrients to the injured site.
  • Tip – Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day (eg. A 100 lb athlete should drink at least 50 ounces of water daily)

Fruits & Vegetables

  • Fruits and Vegetables carry antioxidants that fight free-radical damage associated with injury, while also helping to repair cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and other cells and tissues. By increasing your antioxidant intake, you can reduce pain and promote healing.
  • Tip – Add 1 – 2 servings (handfuls) of fruits and vegetables to each meal and snack

Protein

  • Lean proteins strengthen, repair and rebuild bone, muscle, tendons and surrounding supporting tissues; improving healing and reducing pain. They also supply leucine, an essential amino acid that speeds up recovery.
  • Tip – Choose lean proteins, such as chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, beans, lentil and lean beef. Add a serving of protein to each meal and snack.

Healthy Fat

  • Saturated and trans-fats (such as fried foods, chips, pastries, and fatty cuts of meat) promote inflammation, increasing pain and delaying the healing process. Poly- and mono-unsaturated fats decrease inflammation and improve blood flow, relieving pressure and pain to promote healing.
  • Tip – Eat anti-inflammatory fats, such as almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seed, avocado, olive oil, fish and fish oil supplements.

Herbs & Spices

  • The anti-inflammatory properties of some herbs and spices can help decrease inflammation and accelerate healing.
  • Tip – Include herbs and spices, such as turmeric, curry powder, garlic and cinnamon in your cooking.

Supplements

  • Many supplements contain properties that help reduce inflammation, accelerate healing and strengthen bone, muscle, tendons and ligaments.
  • Tip – Include supplements, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, copper, zinc, arginine, HMB, glutamine and proteolytic enzymes. Speak to a dietitian before purchasing a supplement. 

Nutrition for Pre-/Post-Surgery

If you want to prepare yourself for, and ensure a speedy recovery from, orthopedic surgery, the answer may be on your plate. Nutrition plays an essential role in recovery from orthopedic surgery.

Consider the following nutrition recommendations from a Sports Dietitian on how to prepare for and recovery from surgery:

Pre-Surgery

  • Establish a healthy eating routine that include high-quality, well-balanced meals and snacks. This will provide your body and tissues with the essential nutrients to minimize swelling and inflammation, while supporting tissue integrity prior to surgery.
  • Include complex carbs, such as brown rice, quinoa, steel-cut oats, whole grain bread and whole grain pasta.
  • Choose lean proteins, such as fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, beans, lentils, lean beef and milk or milk alternative products. 
  • Add fruits and vegetables rich in beta-carotene, which helps maintain tissue quality, such as apricots, sweet potato, mango, carrots, beets, melons and leafy green vegetables.
  • Consume healthy fats from sources such as olive oil, fish, avocado, almonds, walnuts, flax seed, pumpkin seeds and fish oil.
  • Maintain good hydration by drinking half your body weight in ounces of water daily
  • Tip – Include a source of carbs, protein, healthy fats and fruits & vegetables at each meal

Post-Surgery

  • Reduce portion sizes to accommodate for the reduction in exercise to prevent unwanted weight gain
  • Increase protein intake from food sources, such as chicken, turkey, fish, beans and eggs. Consider taking a protein supplement to meet increased needs.
  • Include anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, such as turmeric, curry powder, garlic and cinnamon into your cooking
  • Add a fish oil (Omega-3) supplement daily
  • Add a probiotic supplement or food sources of healthy enzymes, such as yogurt, tempeh, kimchi, kefir, miso, kombucha, gouda and swiss cheese.
  • Maintain good hydration by drinking half your body weight in ounces of water daily
  • Tip – Plan out your post-surgery meals before you go into surgery and ensure that you consume the appropriate nutrients in the proper proportions. 

 

Nutrition for Concussion Management

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and concussions are major setbacks for any athlete, and may persist for weeks or even months if not properly managed. Nutrition plays a major role in the recovery from a concussion, and can speed up the healing process.

Consider the following nutrition recommendations from a Sports Dietitian on how to properly manage a concussion:

Foods to Choose

  • Fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients that support brain health and recovery. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables, including dark, leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale. 
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (specifically, decosahexaenoic acid, or DHA) have been shown to improve outcomes from traumatic brain injury and should be incorporated into your daily diet. Supplementation is the best means of achieving the recommended daily dose, so choose an omega-3 supplement that provides at least 3000 mg (or 3 grams) of combined DHA and EPA. You can also include foods rich in omega-3, such as salmon, tuna, walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seed.   
  • Protein can provide essential amino acids that support recovery from concussion. Foods such as eggs, nuts, seeds, yogurt, chicken, turkey and fish supply beneficial nutrients that help maintain brain health. 
  • Tip – Consult a Sports Dietitian to create a meal plan that can optimize recovery from a concussion.

Foods to Avoid

  • Alcohol intake can slow down the recovery process, so avoid it altogether.
  • Foods with added sugar, such as candy bars, cakes and cookies, do not provide any beneficial nutrients and can delay recovery.
  • Fried foods, such as fast food, should be completely avoided as they typically contain saturated fats and salt that can impair recovery from concussion.
  • Caffeine, while beneficial in healthy individuals, should be limited or avoided during concussion recovery.
  • Tip – Limit packaged and processed foods and choose fresh, wholesome foods that you can prepare yourself. 

 

How to Contact a Sports Dietitian

UCLA Health Sports Performance
Luke Corey, Registered Dietitian & Sports Nutrition Specialist
P: 310-426-1407
 
  • Individual consultations with the dietitian are available to help create a nutrition game plan to support recovery from injury and help you get back to playing your sport at a high level.
  • Cash-based services only (no insurance coverage)