Contents1. Ensure adequate calorie intake. 2. Prioritize protein. 3. Fuel recovery with nutrient-dense foods. 4. Consider omega-3 supplementation. 5. Find a good physical therapist. 6. Get plenty of sleep. 7. Implement a gradual return to exercise. Injury-specific nutrition recommendations Other cycling and recovery-related articles Summary Key takeaways
Whether you’re recovering from a crash or tweaked a tendon during training, accidents and injuries are a seemingly unavoidable part of cycling. While both can be mentally and physically challenging, proper nutrition and physical recovery strategies can help minimize muscle and training losses and speed up healing.
In this article, we will explore the top strategies for nutrition and physical recovery after a cycling accident or injury. From optimizing your diet to working with a physical therapist and easing your way back into training, we've got you covered. So, let's dive in and get you back on that saddle ASAP.
When you’re injured, you may be tempted to reduce your calorie intake since you’re not burning as much on the bike. However, your energy expenditure may actually be up to 20% higher, especially in the early phases [ 2
Research shows inadequate energy intake can accelerate muscle mass loss by decreasing muscle protein synthesis and facilitating muscle protein breakdown, especially during periods of immobility, and significantly hinder injury recovery [ 1 2
On the other hand, consuming more energy than you need will increase body fat and systemic inflammation, which also fuels the loss of muscle mass [ 2
To aid healing and minimize muscle loss, experts recommend an injured athlete’s energy intake be as close as possible to their energy expenditure or even slightly higher (25-30 kcal/kg of body weight) [ 1 2
Protein is essential for repairing damaged tissues, minimizing muscle loss, and promoting muscle protein synthesis. Not getting enough while recovering from an injury will lead to increased loss of muscle mass, decreased tissue repair and healing, inflammation, and impaired healing [ 2
Most studies recommend that injured athletes consume 1.6-3 g/kg/day [ 1 1
1]. If your injury lands you on the couch or requires you to restrict your food intake (to prepare or recover from surgery, for example), you’ll want to get a minimum of 2.0 g/kg/day [
Eating protein rich in leucine, an essential amino acid, may also benefit recovery by inhibiting muscle catabolism in injured athletes, especially during the early stages when catabolic processes can be significant [ 1
For this reason, experts recommend that injured athletes consume 20–30 g of leucine-rich protein (~3 g of pure leucine) in each meal or snack, including before bed [ 2
2]. Good protein foods that contain leucine include cottage cheese, eggs, salmon, canned navy beans, chickpeas, soybeans (edamame, tempeh, tofu), and pumpkin seeds.
Spreading out your protein intake evenly throughout the day is also recommended. Research shows that when protein is distributed evenly, it helps your muscles grow and recover more effectively and can help prevent muscle loss [ 2
2]. If you're recovering from a cycling injury, divide your protein intake into 4-6 protein-rich meals throughout the day to promote healing.
If you’re wondering how to meet your increased protein needs and get that all-important leucine while not overlooking other key nutrients in your diet, Elo Health
Elo Healthcan help.
Elo Smart Recovery
Elo Smart Recoveryis a ground-breaking personalized protein product that uses AI, individual activity, and health data to create a recovery blend made just for you. Each unique blend delivers high-quality protein and functional ingredients optimally dosed to promote muscle recovery and reduce muscle soreness. Think of it as a supplement and protein powder in one scoop, uniquely designed for your nutrition needs.
Smart Recovery membership also includes unlimited access to a registered dietitian and real-time dosing recommendations based on your latest tracked workout via the Elo App. Unlike other personalized protein products, Elo Smart Recovery evolves as your goals and needs change through continuous feedback loops.
When you’re injured, the quality of the food you consume can negatively or positively affect your recovery as much as the quantity of food you eat. The nutrients in food play essential roles in metabolism, energy production, tissue repair, muscle and bone mass maintenance, immunity, and also protect against oxidative damage [ 1
Here are some ways to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need from foods to support your recovery from a cycling injury.
Emphasize whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These foods are great for sustained energy while supporting tissue repair, reducing inflammation, and promoting overall health.
Fill up on fruits and veggies. These foods are particularly rich in antioxidants and vitamins (like C and E), which promote tissue healing.
Don’t forget your calcium and vitamin D. Your body needs vitamin D
vitamin Dto absorb calcium, a key mineral in healing and maintaining strong, healthy bones. Good sources of calcium include dark leafy greens (such as kale), fortified tofu and soy milk, and vitamin D-fortified milk and yogurt.
Stay hydrated to help with healing. Proper hydration is vital for nutrient delivery, waste removal, and maintaining all of the body’s physiological functions.
If you’re not already taking a fish oil supplement
fish oil supplement, you may want to consider starting, as some research suggests omega-3s may help with two key aspects of injury recovery: inflammation and muscle protein synthesis.
Inflammation is a natural and healthy response to injury, directing nutrients and immune factors to the injured site to facilitate repair [ 4 3 1 4
4]. However, excessive and persistent inflammation can impair recovery by limiting the repair of damaged tissue and triggering muscle atrophy [
3]. The anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil-derived omega-3s may benefit the injured athlete by modulating the immune response and preventing excessive inflammation during recovery [
The long-term intake of omega-3 fatty acids also enhances the body’s sensitivity to amino acids and muscle protein synthesis response. Though it may not benefit muscle gain, fish oil supplementation may help reduce muscle loss during immobilization [ 1
The daily recommendation for all omega-3s is 1,600 mg/day for men and 1,100 mg/day for women. Consuming 1–2 portions (~8 ounces) of fish per week can help you meet this requirement, but if you don’t, fish oil supplements may be beneficial if you’re recovering from an injury. A typical fish oil supplement provides about 1,000 mg of fish oil with 180 mg EPA and 120 mg DHA; however, formulations and doses vary widely [ 5
Whether you’re taking fish oil or considering it, remember that excess supplementation could excessively dampen the body’s natural inflammatory response and impair healing. A conservative approach to supplementation can promote a healthy inflammatory response, with the goal being to meet the daily recommendations for omega-3 intake [ 6
Recovering from a cycling injury shouldn’t be done solo. Working with a physical therapist can help ensure you reach maximum recovery potential and expedite the recovery process.
These musculoskeletal and rehabilitation experts will assess your injury, functional limitations, and help you set goals to create a personalized recovery plan. The exercises they prescribe will address your needs to help you gradually build and regain strength and mobility. A physical therapist will also monitor your progress and tweak your protocol as needed to ensure you recover safely and reduce re-injury risk [ 7
Physical therapy is essential to injury recovery, but remember, it only works if you do it. Scheduling your PT time during your usual workout windows will ensure you don’t slack on your exercises and help you maintain good exercise habits.
When you sleep, blood flow to tissues increases, delivering more oxygen and nutrients essential for tissue healing, cellular repair, and overall recovery [ 8
Sleep also promotes the release of growth hormones, stimulating muscle repair and growth. Without adequate sleep, growth hormone production declines, making it harder for your body to recover from injuries [ 8
Lack of sleep can also cause the body to produce more substances that cause inflammation and pain, such as interleukin 6 and C-reactive protein. This can negatively affect the immune system and make it harder for the body to heal [ 8
To optimize recovery, experts recommend getting at least 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night [ 10
10]. But if you’ve ever experienced something like a break or sprain, you know it can be challenging to get comfortable. Repeatedly irritating your injury throughout the night can also prolong your recovery. If you’re struggling with sleep, ask your doctor or physical therapist how to achieve a more comfortable night’s rest while you heal.
If you struggle to fall or stay asleep, even when you’re not injured, here are some natural sleep supplements
natural sleep supplementsthat might also help.
Last but not least, when recovering from a cycling injury, it's important to take a gradual approach to reintroducing exercise. Trying to do too much too soon can slow your recovery, increase your chance of reinjury, or worse, cause additional damage.
Your doctor or physical therapist can provide you with a recovery plan tailored to your specific injury to help you minimize these risks and steadily regain your strength and mobility.
Getting over an injury can be long and tedious, but patience and consistency will pay off.
The tips above can help you heal from most general cycling accidents and injuries; however, certain nutrients may be particularly beneficial for healing injuries involving the brain, muscles, bones, or connective tissues like tendons and ligaments.
Here are some key nutrients that may further boost your recovery depending on your cycling injury type.
If you suffer a concussion as a result of a cycling accident, energy intake and diet quality are important and should be prioritized as soon as possible.
Experts recommend choosing mostly whole, unprocessed foods while avoiding inflammatory foods like highly processed and refined foods, red meat, and alcohol. However, if you’re struggling with nausea and vomiting, a bland diet may also be necessary.
Furthermore, you should aim for a higher ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s. You can do this by swapping out sunflower and corn oils for olive oil or cooking with soybean oil which is high in both omega-6 and omega-3 fats. Of course, protein also remains important. Foods like fatty fish and omega-3–rich eggs can combine quality protein with healthy omega-3s to moderate inflammation. [ 11
When it comes to muscle injuries, omega-3s seem particularly beneficial, primarily due to their potent anti-inflammatory effects [ 1 Here’s everything you need to know about fish oil
Here’s everything you need to know about fish oilif you’re considering supplementation.
If you're dealing with a bone injury from a cycling accident, nutrients like calcium, vitamins D and A are key for bone rehabilitation. Additionally, manganese, copper, boron, iron, zinc, vitamin K, vitamin C, and B vitamins have also been shown to be important for the health and support of our bones [ 1
You can obtain all of these nutrients from whole foods and a healthy diet; however, a multivitamin can also be beneficial for covering any nutrient gaps during this critical recovery period.
Tendons and ligaments are particularly prone to injury, especially as we age. If you’re suffering from a connective tissue injury, research suggests nutrients like vitamin C collagen turmeric 1
vitamin C, copper, gelatin/hydrolyzed
turmeric(curcumin), and arginine may be particularly beneficial for tendon and ligament repair [
Elo Smart Recovery boosts
Elo Smart Recoverynot only provides the essential amino acids for injury recovery but can also include a variety of these
boosts(including collagen, turmeric, and a multivitamin) to aid in the healing of injured tendons and ligaments.
The most effective strategies for cycling recovery
The most effective strategies for cycling recovery, according to science
Recovering from a cycling injury can be a challenging journey, but with the right strategies, you can speed up your healing process and get back on your bike faster. You can do this by matching energy intake to your needs, getting enough protein, consuming nutrient-dense foods, and getting the recommended omega-3s. Additionally, working with a physical therapist, prioritizing quality sleep, and gradually reintroducing exercise will help ensure a successful recovery and get you back in the saddle faster.
Disclaimer: The text, images, videos, and other media on this page are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to treat, diagnose, or replace personalized medical care.
Proper nutrition and physical recovery strategies are crucial for minimizing muscle and training losses and speeding up healing after a cycling accident or injury.
Ensure adequate calorie and protein intake to promote healing, avoiding inadequate and excessive consumption.
Consider fueling recovery with nutrient-dense foods, emphasizing whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, calcium, vitamin D, and staying hydrated. Personalized protein products, like Elo Smart Recovery
Elo Smart Recovery, can help injured cyclists meet their increased protein and nutritional needs.
Omega-3 supplementation, collaborating with a physical therapist, prioritizing quality sleep, and implementing a gradual return to exercise can also enhance recovery from cycling injuries.
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Giraldo-Vallejo, J. E., Cardona-Guzmán, M. Á., Rodríguez-Alcivar, E. J., Kočí, J., Petro, J. L., Kreider, R. B., Cannataro, R., & Bonilla, D. A. (2023). Nutritional Strategies in the Rehabilitation of Musculoskeletal Injuries in Athletes: A Systematic Integrative Review. Nutrients, 15(4), 819. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15040819
Howard, E. E., Pasiakos, S. M., Blesso, C. N., Fussell, M. A., & Rodriguez, N. R. (2020). Divergent Roles of Inflammation in Skeletal Muscle Recovery From Injury. Frontiers in physiology, 11, 87. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2020.00087
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Office of Dietary Supplements - Omega-3 fatty acids. (n.d.). https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/
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Charest J, Grandner MA. Sleep and Athletic Performance: Impacts on Physical Performance, Mental Performance, Injury Risk and Recovery, and Mental Health. Sleep Med Clin. 2020 Mar;15(1):41-57. doi: 10.1016/j.jsmc.2019.11.005. PMID: 32005349; PMCID: PMC9960533. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32005349/
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Bird, S. (2013). Sleep, Recovery, and Athletic Performance. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 35(5), 43–47. https://doi.org/10.1519/ssc.0b013e3182a62e2f
Brain Health: Nutrition care after Concussion - Today’s Dietitian Magazine. (2020, May). Retrieved July 12, 2023, from https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0520p12.shtml#:~:text=%E2%80%9CIt's%20important%20that%20we%20try,cellular%20and%20tissue%20production%2Frepair