Nutrition When Injured

inflammation injury Mar 27, 2023

Katie Breazeale, MS, RD, LD


Have you ever been injured and thought this is taking forever to recover? Did you know that there are ways to improve the healing process through nutrition?


First let’s talk about inflammation and the different phases of healing.


What is happening when there is inflammation? Water and proteins are entering the injured area, bringing antibodies and white blood cells to deal with irritants. Signs of inflammation may include redness, swelling, pain, and heat. Inflammation can occur when lifestyle or environment exposes the body to substances perceived as irritants – injury, sedentary lifestyle, low-grade infections, toxins, food allergens, or inflammatory foods.

We are focused on inflammation from injuries. You are injured- so what is happening in the body? Your body will go through 3 phases to help with healing. I have seen these phases with a couple different names depending on who you’re talking to you. Proliferative may also be called the regeneration phase due to what is happening in that phase.

3 Stages in the healing process

  • Inflammatory Phase

    • Day of injury through day 4

  • Proliferative Phase

    • Begins 2-4 days post injury

    • Can be 2 weeks up to 6 weeks

  • Remodeling Phase

    • Begins roughly 14 days post injury

    • 3-12 months depending on injury and behavioral habits


Inflammation Phase

This phase is what it sounds like. You have acquired a new injury and that area is inflamed with redness, muscle spasms, pain, or swelling. 


Proliferative Phase

During this time, your body lays down new tissue within the injured area and repairs nerve connections to damaged tissue.


Remolding Phase

The Remodeling Phase is the complete restoration of healthy function to the injured area, and may take as long as 3-12 months after your injury depending on the severity of the injury.



Why am I talking to you about injuries when the orthopedic surgeon or your physical therapist is the one that deals with bones and muscles? Nutrition can enhance your recovery process, help with inflammation, and get you back out there sooner.


The Role of Nutrition during injury is:

  1. Inflammation support (and management) through nutrition

    1. Enhance innate healing process

  2. Immune system support through nutrition

    1. Enhance the healing process

  3. Regeneration and anabolic support through nutrition

    1. Supports muscle protein synthesis

    2. Preserve muscle mass

    3. Maintain energy balance


There’s more than just protein that can help with healing. We have goals for you in mind when you’re injured.

  • Limit high sugar and/or high fat foods as a method to balance calories to match reduced physical activity

  • Promote healing by maintaining calorie intake and consuming foods with a concentrated amount of nutrients, including lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.

  • Increase intake of nutrients that are important for tissue repair, bone health, and immune function.


Did you know your Basal/Resting Metabolic Rate increases with an injury? It can be 15-50% higher depending on severity. Most common post-surgery is 15-20% higher than your normal rate.


Working with a dietitian when injured can help you come up with the right balance of protein, calories, and micronutrients for your healing process. A dietitian can also help you weed through supplement questions you may have heard about for recovery.


If you are interested in working with a dietitian while you’re injured there a few ways to go about this. 

  1. Get a referral from your doctor.

  2. Check that your insurance covers preventative nutrition and work with us i=without a referral.

  3. Pay out of pocket for what you need.


Injuries can be frustrating. Let us help you with your recovery process, limit potential weight gain that can come with an injury, and equip yourself with the tools you need to move forward in you health. 

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