Nutrition strategies to support recovery in adolescent athletes

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Injuries are just part of competitive sport. Whether it is a twisted ankle, a sore knee, a stress fracture, or something more serious.

When we are injured we often think we need to eat less as we are not moving; actually, your body needs energy to repair and recover and protein to keep those muscles you have worked so hard to build. So what do you eat when you are injured to help recovery?

Good quality protein at breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. What is good quality protein? A 1/3 of your plate being chicken, pork, fish, tofu or 2 eggs or a cup of beans, chickpeas and lentils. Choose oily fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel or sardines at least twice a week. For snacks, Greek yoghurt, boiled eggs, glass of milk or tin of tuna are great high protein options.

Another 1/3 of your plate should be complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole meal pasta, quinoa, potatoes and sweet potatoes and grainy bread to ensure you have enough energy, leaving the protein to do its job of maintaining muscle mass.

The last 1/3 of your plate should be veggies of different colours, cooked or raw.

Olive oil, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, tomatoes, nuts, turmeric, and fruits like blueberries, strawberries, cherries and oranges help with reducing inflammation, so try include them as much as you can.

Foods that are not going to help are fried foods; fast food; refined carbohydrates like pastries, white bread, white rice, biscuits; sugar sweetened beverages like soft drink, sweet tea, energy drinks and sports drinks; red meat and processed meat (sausages, salami, bacon etc.), try skip them while injured.

A healthy balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish, good quality protein and wholegrain breads and cereals is ideal. Supplements are not recommended at your age. If you are still not sure about what and how much to eat (that depends, as we are all different) a Sports Dietitian can definitely help.


von Rosen et al. 2018, High Injury Burden in Elite Adolescent Athletes: A 52 Week Prospective Study. Papadopoulou 2020, Rehabilitation Nutrition for Injury Recovery of Athletes: The Role of Macronutrient Intake).

Image by Global Sport Matters.

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Marzia Bell

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