Brain Fuel: A Culinary Approach to Concussion Rehab
“No TV… no computers… no video games… and definitely NO HOCKEY until you are better!” This is what hundreds and of athletes and patients are told each season by their doctors after being diagnosed with a concussion. Little advice is given above this and treatments at concussion focused clinics can help with symptom resolution, but what about the fuel to help with the healing of the injured brain?
This is where Culinary Nutrition steps in! Proper nutrient timing, balanced blood sugar levels and healing nutrients give the brain all it needs to fuel the healing process. Here are some great tips to get your brain on board with the foods to get your gears going again.
Hydration, hydration, hydration!
The brain is 70% water, if you are dehydrated even 2%, your cognitive function (thinking, decision making, reaction time) are slowed down. Be sure to drink 2 L of water throughout the day. Not a fan of liquid H20? Try adding lemon, berries or cucumber to your water for flavour or drink non-caffeinated teas, like peppermint or chamomile, which can help with the stress and anxiety of concussions.
Spice it up & up your Anti-s!
Inflammation after an injury sets in quickly and can slow down healing. The brain is not exempt from this but there are some delicious ways to combat it. Spices like turmeric, garlic, onions and antioxidant-rich raspberries, blueberries, goji berries and cherries are a delicious way to reduce inflammation. Try adding them to your smoothies, salads or as a quick snack on their own.
Get your fat on!
The brain is a giant network of nerve cells which depends on a constant supply of essential fatty acids, such as omega-3s, to transmit signals. Sources of omega-3s include wild caught salmon, walnuts (they even look like brains!), olive oil and flax oil. Try adding walnuts with your trail mix, topping your salads with flax oil and your veggies with olive oil to get your healthy fat fix.
Say no to the buzz & get on the clock!
Fatigue is a major complaint among concussed athletes, and the urge to reach for an energy fix is often overwhelming. To promote healing, avoid all alcohol, sugars and caffeine, which will only exacerbate that headache, irritability and anxiety the concussion gives you. To make sure your energy levels are sustained, try eating regular, well-balanced meals and snacks throughout the day. Start with a breakfast 1 hour after waking and have a healthy source of fats and proteins (eggs, grass-fed or pasture-raised animal proteins, nuts, and quinoa) in your meals and snacks. Avoid snacking no later than 1 hour before bed and have it packed with protein, almond butter and green apple are a tasty late night treat.
By sticking to these tips, you can give your cranium a fighting chance and get you back to the rink sooner.