Recovery Protocol After a Major Injury or Surgery: A Nutritional Approach to Prevent Muscle Wasting & Speed Recovery

Mike Campanella

We’ve all been there: a pulled hamstring doing sprints on the track, a tweaked back doing kettlebell swings, a strained rotator cuff after throwing a baseball. If you’ve ever been an athlete, or someone who is active and engages in physical activity, injuries are inevitable. More often than not, we can get by with some ice (in the acute phase), anti-inflammatories, heat, and healthy movement. A week or two at most, and you’ll be feeling right as rain.

But every so often an injury can take you out of training for weeks at a time, or worse, a surgery puts you on the sidelines for a month or two. What do you do, then, when you cannot train?

For starters, most of us have around a two week cushion before we start losing our hard-earned muscle mass. At that two week mark, the metabolic cost of keeping said muscle hits the breaking point, and your body will start breaking down any excess mass that is not essential for daily life.

FEAR NOT! There are some supplemental and nutritional strategies you can implement to help prevent muscle wasting/strength-loss while simultaneously increasing recovery time.

Take these supplements for 2-4 weeks after a major injury and/or surgery:
(I am not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be one: please consult your physician before using this protocol!)

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamin A — 10,000 IU/day
Vitamin C — 1000-2000 mg/day
Copper — 2-4 mg/day
Zinc — 15-30 mg/day

Protein and Amino Acids

Collagen Protein — 15 grams 2x/day
L-Arginine — 5 grams 2x/day
HMB — 1.5 grams 2x/day
L-Glutamine — 5 grams 2x/day
L-Leucine — 5 grams 2x/day
Creatine Monohydrate — 5 grams/day
Other Things to Consider

While recovering from a major injury, or surgery, it is important to eat a low-inflammation diet. When tolerable, easily digestible protein, healthy fats, fruits, spices (like turmeric and ginger) and vegetables, should be the pillars of your menu during recovery. Avoid sugar, alcohol, trans fats and plant oils, processed carbohydrates, etc. Protein consumption, whether in a supplement form, or whole food form, should be adequate (0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight) and spread evenly throughout the day for maximum protein synthesis activity.

While we are always doing our best to prevent major injury, it’s always helpful to have a plan should things go sideways. We hope that this template gives you a roadmap in times of injury or stress, so that you don’t feel too helpless during the initial recovery phase.

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