What most people don't realize is that one of the most important parts of avoiding serious injury is what we put into our bodies. If you've ever read any of my blog entries, you already know I'm an advocate of maintaining a healthy diet. I've compiled a short list that goes into a little more detail of the hows and whys healthy eating can help you avoid getting hurt.
Eat More - In today's society, especially in women, lots of pressure is put on us to look good. One of the biggest misconceptions on how to accomplish this is by not eating. Additionally, select softball players and their families are no strangers to busy schedules. Often times, it's very difficult to cook a "real" meal. Unfortunately, being busy often leads to us substituting eating with simply not eating. Any form of malnutrition puts your body in a prime position for an injury waiting to happen.
Eat Fat - With all of the information and crazy diet plans out there, it's easy for one to fall victim to the belief that eating fat makes one fat. Eating low fat foods can actually be worse for the human body than their full fat counterparts. A recent study by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, found that female athletes who consumed a low amount of dietary fat and percentage of calories from fat had a higher rate of injury. An appropriate amount of healthy fat (~at least 36% of total calories) will prevent vitamin D and K deficiencies, and help to maintain an appropriate body weight. Most competitive softball players burn mega-calories and it can be tough to reach fuel requirements on a low-fat diet. To replace the 2,000 calories you burned during a tournament, you have to eat quite a bit of food. Carbohydrates and protein only contain 4 calories per gram, but fat contains over double – 9 calories per gram. Fat-rich foods such as peanut butter and olive oil can pack a decent amount of calories and nutrients in a smaller package.
Protein - This one is easy. Protein intake will maintain (or strengthen depending on the intake amount) muscles and soft tissue. Strong muscles greatly reduce the risk of injury. It really is that simple.
I recommend 1 to 1 and 1/2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Try including some type of healthy protein source at every meal. Lean beef or soy, chicken, milk, and eggs are all great sources.
Take your vitamins - Zinc and iron are incredibly important to avoiding injury. Most people don't get anywhere near the amounts of these minerals they need even on a healthy diet. Take a multi-vitamin
twice daily and eat foods that are a source of both iron and zinc such as beef, poultry, and seafood.
Of course eating healthy alone may not keep you from getting injured. Regular, proper, exercise is also a big factor. Even then, getting injured isn't completely out of the question. Sometimes, we simply get into situations where the unfortunate just happens. Should you get injured, don't give up on healthy eating. While the length of your downtime is primarily determined by the severity of your injury, the degree to which your body is nutritionally prepared to handle this new stress is almost equally as important. If you're already practicing healthy eating habits prior to injury, your body will heal sooner. Furthermore, if you maintain this diet, your body will have more resources to repair itself. You may not know this but your body burns calories up to 15% faster when it is injured. If unnecessary weight gain is a concern, don't let it be. Use this entry as a guide and not only will your body be best prepared for handling potential injury causing stress, but should the unfortunate event of an injury ever occur, you can get back on the dirt much sooner.