The weekend beach volleyball tournament that was going to give you months of bragging rights has landed you in your current predicament – the recovery room after an ACL replacement. Groggy from the anesthesia, you nod complacently as a girl in head to toe blue and a mask around her neck talks about ice and rest. All of sudden your mind is back at the beach again. A couple hours later you wake up at home, hungry and wondering how long its going to be before your next volleyball game. 

The good news is post-op patients can significantly influence how long it takes to recover from surgery by following some simple dietary guidelines. The goal with your post-op diet is to turn your body into a healing machine.

After surgery your body is in a stressed state, which cranks up your body’s metabolism. This increase in metabolism makes the quality of food you consume that much more important. A healing diet requires planning and preparation to make sure your body has the right fuel for recovery, which includes:

  • Protein- Having ample protein in you diet after surgery is important for your body’s bone and muscle to rebuild. Protein is vital for keeping your bodies immune system strong to help prevent post-surgical infections. After surgery your diet should include 1-1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight a day. Foods that are high in protein are: Chicken, beef, fish, nuts, tofu, and quinoa just to name a few.
  • Calcium- Calcium promotes bone rebuilding. Your body needs 1200 mg of calcium to maintain strong bones. Foods that contain high amounts of calcium are: Milk, beans, almonds, kale, and tofu.
  • Vitamin D- Equally as important for bone health is vitamin D because it aids with calcium absorption. Foods that are high in vitamin D include fatty fish, egg yolks, and soy milk.
  • Vitamin C- When your body is healing collagen is an important protein that lays the foundation from which tissue is built. Vitamin C helps the body make collagen, making this vitamin important in the healing process. Vitamin C also has antioxidant properties to help get rid of free radicals produced by injured tissue. For a healing body the recommended amount of vitamin C per day is 500 mg. Most fruits and vegetables are high in vitamin C and these should be a central aspect in any ones diet following surgery.
  • Zinc- Zinc has been shown to aid with wound healing, uniting bone fractures and preventing osteoporosis due to its role in collagen production. Food that contain high concentrations of zinc are: meats, beans, nuts, dairy and eggs.
  • Omega 3- Last but not least, omega 3, more specifically DHA and EPA, aid in bone formation, prevent bone loss and also has anti-inflammatory properties. Foods that contain high amounts of omega 3s are: salmon, mackerel, chia seeds, and nuts

While fueling your body with nutrients is important  avoiding substances that will slow recovery is equally important, this includes – nicotine, alcohol and added sugar and salt.

              To further optimize your recovery time, start your eating plan the weeks leading up to surgery.  A good diet not only speeds-up recovery but it also helps the body fight off potential infections.  You are the driver of your recovery.


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