Many people think of physical therapy (PT) and rehabilitation as solely exercise-based processes. While it is true that PT and rehab do involve a lot of movement and exercise, there is another important element that is often overlooked: nutrition. Just as exercise is vital to the PT and rehab process, so too is eating healthy, nutritious meals.
The role of nutrition in PT and rehab is twofold, according to Robert Stravinsky. First, proper nutrition gives your body the fuel it needs to recover from injury or surgery and rebuild itself stronger than before. Second, eating healthy foods helps reduce inflammation throughout your body, which can speed up the healing process.
How Nutrition Fuels the Body during PT and Rehab
When you are injured or have undergone surgery, your body needs time to repair itself. This repair process requires a lot of energy, which means you need to consume more calories than usual. However, it is not just any calories that will do; your body needs high-quality nutrients to properly heal.
Protein is one of the most important nutrients for injury recovery because it helps build new tissue. Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are used by the body to create new muscle tissue, skin cells, blood cells, antibodies, and enzymes. Consuming enough protein also helps prevent lean muscle mass loss, which can occur during periods of inactivity.
Robert Stravinsky Another important nutrient for injury recovery is iron. Iron plays a vital role in transporting oxygen to all tissues in the body via red blood cells. When you are injured, your body needs more oxygen to support the healing process. If you do not have enough iron in your diet, you may develop iron deficiency anemia, which can further delay healing. Good sources of iron include red meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, tofu, dark leafy greens, eggs, and iron-fortified cereals.
Good nutrition is essential for everyone—but it is especially important for those who are undergoing physical therapy or rehabilitation. Eating a healthy diet provides your body with the energy it needs to heal from injury or surgery while reducing inflammation throughout your system. So if you are PT or rehabbing an injury, make sure you fuel your body with nutritious foods!