Professional athletes, school athletes, and weekend warriors must be aware of how they treat their bodies. In addition to relying on strong muscles and bones, they need to keep their joints protected and lubricated. One way to do that is to pay attention to what they eat.
Although various diets may compete for the title of “world’s healthiest,” when it comes to pro athletes, the fads don’t matter. They go back to the basics to ensure they get the proper types of foods at the correct times so they can perform well and subdue joint inflammation.
As head team physician for the Houston Astros and team orthopedist for the Houston Texans,
David Lintner, MD, knows first-hand how seriously athletes take their health. At Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, located in Kingwood and Houston, Texas, we recommend whole-food and anti-inflammatory diets to all our clients.
How do you keep your joints in game-time condition and avoid sports injuries with diet hacks? Below are some tips.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Sweating dehydrates your body, which affects all of its tissues, including your joints. The standard advice is to drink about 15.5 cups of fluids daily if you’re a man and 11.5 if you’re a woman. However, athletes need more.
On training and game days, drink two cups of fluids before you start training. For every 15 minutes of exercise, drink another 4-6 ounces. Concentrate on healthy hydration, such as:
- Coconut water
- Fruit- and veggie-infused water
For recovery, consider:
- Green tea
- Milk (low fat)
- Veggie-and-fruit smoothies
Avoid energy or electrolyte-replenishing drinks full of sugars, artificial sweeteners, and other chemicals. You can buy or make your own natural, sugar-free electrolyte drinks. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables keeps you hydrated, too.
Turn down inflammation
Chronic inflammation is associated with many diseases and medical conditions, including arthritis and diabetes. Some foods and drinks provoke inflammation in the body and should be avoided if you want to protect your joints. Cut out:
- Energy and sugary sports drinks
- Processed foods and meats
- Fried food
- Junk and fast food
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Simple carbohydrates
Instead, focus on foods that subdue inflammation and nourish your tissues. Fill your diet with joint-friendly choices such as:
- Fresh fruits
- Fresh and cooked vegetables
- Whole grains
- Olive oil
- Lean meats
- Coconut oil
- Complex carbohydrates
If you don’t have time to shop the perimeter of the grocery store (where the fresh foods are kept) and prepare your own meals, consider a subscription meal plan that focuses on organic and anti-inflammatory foods.
Eat for performance
Instead of worrying about the latest trendy diet, let your next activity inform your fueling-up choices. Some advice from athletes include:
- Keep your early meals calorie-dense
- Eat a light dinner
- Eat within 30-60 minutes after a workout to replace glycogen
- Eat proteins and veggies before a game
Work with your coach and a nutritionist to ensure you’re making the right food-as-fuel choices for your sport.
Listen to your body
Be sure you eat enough food to keep your joints well-nourished and give your body the energy it needs to keep up with the demands of your sport.
Don’t ignore any warning signals. If you notice your joints are stiff or sore, contact our office immediately.
To avoid joint pain and sports injuries, you need an experienced sports-medicine specialist. Contact our friendly and knowledgeable staff at the nearest office by phone or the online form for more joint health tips today.
Special message: Even if you live far from Houston, consider sending your MRI on a DVD to Dr. Lintner along with a summary of your injury and symptoms for a second opinion. If appropriate, we can schedule a video visit, review your MRI, and discuss whether surgery might be needed. Many of our patients come from far away for their surgery and rehab closer to home with close follow-up by Dr. Lintner via telemedicine.