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Rehabilitation Nutrition: How to Speed up your Recovery After an Injury or Surgery

Did you know that muscle can start to be lost in as little as 35 hours of inactivity, and that we can have significant muscle loss within 5 days of inactivity? This primarily applies to immobilization with an injury or after a surgery. What can we do to limit the damage done by injuries and surgeries?

In this blog, we will summarize the main takeaways from a 2020 article named "Nutritional Considerations and Strategies to Facilitate Injury Recovery and Rehabilitation" in the Journal of Athletic Training. Click here to read the full text article.

The 2020 study by AE Smith-Ryan, et al recommends that, “Athletic trainers, physical therapists, and other health care professionals should provide basic nutritional recommendations during rehabilitation, discuss the timing of meals with respect to therapy, and refer the patient to a registered dietitian if warranted."

Nutrition does play a crucial role in rehab and more nutritional interventions need to be discussed and implemented during recovery.

Below you will find the more detailed recommendations on how to take in enough protein and calories to prevent loss of muscle and help wounds heal.


  • Avoid alcohol

  • Protein: at least 1.6 g/kg/d and closer to 2.0 to 3.0 g/kg/d are recommended, with an emphasis on consuming about 3 grams of leucine per serving

  • Carbohydrates: approximately 3 to 5 g/kg or 55% of total calories during rehabilitation or recovery should be delivered as complex carbohydrates

  • Fat: Approximately 20% to 25% of calories should be from fat: 0.8 to 2 g/kg/d (due to the caloric density). Recommended daily intakes are 2 g per day of ω-3 fatty acids and 10 g per day of ω-6 fatty acids

  • Vitamin D: optimal dose around 4000IU/d, primarily focus on avoiding insufficiency or deficiency as it can help with immune regulation and skeletal muscle function


  • Focus on getting 20-40 grams of protein per sitting

  • Spread your servings out throughout the day by getting a serving in within 1 hour of waking, then every 3-4 hours after that

  • Make sure to eat protein both before and after rehab sessions

If you or someone you know has recently had an injury or has an upcoming surgery, then send this blog to them! Let's start using these rehab nutrition considerations to better recover and get back to the things we love to do.

-Dr. Sieara

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