As most runners and endurance athletes can attest, sports injury prevention during training is just as important as the training itself. When you put in long, hard hours on the road or in the pool, your body goes through an immense amount of repetitive stress.
So what can you do to learn how to prevent injuries? While not all injuries are preventable, there are some steps you can take with your diet to make sure your body stays in tip top shape for sports injury prevention.
One way you can do this is with regular sports injury prevention supplements.
To help support you as you integrate more beneficial supplements and nutrients into your life, we’ve put together a list of the top 11 supplements for sports injury prevention.
Before we jump right to the list though, let’s talk about how nutrition is tied to injury prevention in the first place.
Nutrition and sports injury prevention
As an athlete, your nutrition and diet play a major role in your overall health.
Most experts recommend a whole foods diet that is rich in fiber, micronutrients, macronutrients, and your daily calorie count.
While supplements can be very beneficial in your sports nutrition, they should not be seen as a replacement for a healthy, balanced whole foods diet. As the name “supplement” suggests, they are meant to supplement and enhance your diet.
While no two athletes will have the exact same diet that works for their needs, a well balanced diet should include grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and protein.
On average, most athletes eat around 50-60% complex carbohydrates, 20-30% healthy fats (not saturated), and 15-20% proteins. This is also known as the 50-30-20 meal plan.
As more research comes out regarding the effectiveness of this type of diet for athletes, it has gained popularity in the fitness industry.
The 50-30-20 diet is far less restrictive than other types of dietary lifestyles (i.e., keto) and provides your body with the necessary nutrients needed for sports injury prevention. It is also a diet that supports general nutrition for runners and other athletes.
Now that you understand how diet and nutrition affect your athletic performance and health, let’s dive into the 11 best supplements to take for sports injury prevention.
11 sports injury prevention supplements to try
Before adding additional supplements to your diet, be sure to consult your doctor. Drastic changes in your diet (especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have underlying conditions, or take prescription medications) can have adverse effects.
Additionally, these supplements are not meant to replace any nutrients you get from the food you eat. Remember, a balanced diet can include supplements, but it should consist primarily of whole foods.
When used to enhance an already well-balanced diet, here are our top recommendations for keeping you at the top of your game.
1. Collagen protein
Protein has been the reigning champ in sports nutrition for a long time, and for good reason! Protein-rich diets can help athletes maintain and build lean muscle mass.
While protein has long been seen as a good way to build muscle, it may also help with sports injury prevention as well. Collagen, in particular, is one of the best supplements you can take when learning how to prevent injuries.
Collagen contains all the necessary amino acids that act as the building blocks for connective tissues in your body. Since many sports injuries involve connective tissues, collagen is an essential component during any type of sports injury treatment and injury prevention.
In particular, collagen can be beneficial for issues with your tendons and ligaments, such as acl injury prevention. That’s because collagen improves both the strength and flexibility of your connective tissues, which makes them less likely to tear.
Because your body’s natural collagen production declines with age, your chance of exercise-induced injury may increase. As your natural collagen production decreases, the collagen that you make is delegated to vital organs like your heart, blood vessels, and brain.
Other parts of your body like your skin, cartilage, and joint structures may be shorted in their collagen supply. The lack of collagen sent to these important connective tissues may be part of the reason that older athletes tend to be more susceptible to injury.
Adding high-quality, easily absorbable proteins to your diet then makes sense. When your body has the apportioned amount of amino acids to restructure into necessary proteins like collagen, your connective tissues may be stronger and able to rebuild after an injury faster.
Protein is also an important part of post workout recovery.
The type of protein you are consuming does matter though. If you are specifically looking for a protein that can help with sports injury prevention, then collagen peptides may be the best option for you.
2. Vitamin C
It is widely known that vitamin C can help boost your immune system, but did you know that vitamin C is an essential part of your body’s natural collagen production?
Since vitamin C helps your body synthesize collagen, it strengthens your connective tissues, which means it can be an integral part of your sports injury prevention plan.
Beyond its boost to your collagen production, vitamin C may also provide your body with additional antioxidants and have some anti-inflammatory properties. This can help not only with sports injury prevention, but with recovery from injury as well.
So, if you are looking for muscle repair supplements after injury, both vitamin C and collagen should be at the top of your list.
Some foods high in vitamin C include:
- Leafy greens
- Bell peppers
- Citrus fruits
- Tropical fruits
You can also add a vitamin C supplement to your diet, but if you are already eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, you likely are consuming enough vitamin C through your diet.
Magnesium may help improve bone strength and, since it contains several amino acids, can help your body with protein synthesis as well. Magnesium is also a part of your body’s muscle contraction and relaxation, which suggests that it may help support healthy muscle movement.
You can take magnesium supplements, but you can also get plenty through whole foods like:
- Black-eyed peas
- Potato skins
- Brown rice
Zinc may play a role in wound healing, tissue repair, and tissue growth because of the contents of enzymes and proteins. All of these factors make zinc an important nutrient for sports injury prevention.
Getting enough zinc in your daily diet often isn’t difficult if you eat the right things. You can take a zinc supplement, and that may be necessary, especially if you follow a plant-based diet.
Zinc is found in whole foods, including:
- Pulses (beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas)
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
Joint injuries are among the most common sports injuries out there, especially for runners and endurance athletes. Since that is the case, it makes sense to include glucosamine in your diet, especially as you age.
Glucosamine is naturally found in the fluid surrounding your joints. It is necessary for the creation of other connective tissues in the joint structure, including your tendons, cartilage, and ligaments.
While your body can produce glucosamine naturally, if you are someone that uses your joints a lot and is at high risk of overuse, adding a glucosamine supplement to your diet could be beneficial in sports injury prevention.
Keep in mind that most glucosamine supplements are made from shellfish and would not be suitable for a plant-based diet or people with shellfish allergies and iodine sensitivities. However, some glucosamine is made from fermented corn. Please read the labels carefully.
It is fairly common knowledge that we need calcium to build strong bones. That’s why calcium has made our list of the best sports injury prevention supplements.
Other than bone and teeth health, calcium is also considered a vital part of your muscle contractions and your body’s nerve signaling system. This can ensure your body has the proper reaction time to change speed or direction swiftly without causing injury.
There are several calcium rich foods that allow you to reach calcium nutritional needs through your diet, including:
- Calcium-fortified tofu
- Plant milks
- Leafy greens
7. Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, and therefore may be helpful in sports injury prevention. You can get a fair amount of vitamin D from sun exposure, and your body is able to store vitamin D for later use. That means that you can’t really have too much of it!
However, if you live in a climate that has limited sunshine, you may need to supplement your vitamin D during parts of the year.
Several animal products such as liver, oily fish, egg yolks, and red meat may also contain some level of vitamin D. Other foods, like breakfast cereals, may also be fortified with vitamin D.
8. Omega fatty acids
Consuming omega-3 fatty acids and other omega fatty acids may help your body reduce inflammation, which is a common symptom many endurance athletes experience in their joints. If you want to improve your joint function to prevent injuries, omega-3s can be found in foods including:
- Chia seeds
Omega-6s can be found in foods such as:
- Sunflower seeds and oil
- Corn oil
- Canola oil
If you are worried that you do not have enough omega fatty acids in your diet, you can supplement with algae pills or fish oil.
If you are an endurance athlete, some studies have suggested that after a sports injury, a diet too high in omega-3s may inhibit your ability to build back muscle mass. So, this supplement is better for prevention than for recovery.
Fiber is an important part of any balanced diet, and that includes a diet focused on how to prevent injuries. Most fiber-rich foods include several nutrients, including vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc, which were all already mentioned for the possible injury prevention properties.
Some fiber-rich foods to include in your diet are:
- Whole grains
Chondroitin is a compound that is often included in joint health supplements. It is a major component of cartilage, providing it with elasticity and helping to resist compression.
By supporting the structural integrity of joints, chondroitin may contribute to overall joint health and help to prevent joint injuries during races or game days.
11. Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are a group of essential amino acids, including leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids are essential because the body cannot produce them on its own, and they must be obtained through diet or supplements.
BCAAs play a crucial role in protein synthesis, which is essential for muscle repair and growth. They may contribute to faster recovery by promoting protein synthesis and reducing muscle protein breakdown – which can reduce the risk of overtraining and overuse injuries.
The best supplement for injury prevention
Without a doubt, collagen protein is the best supplement for sports injury prevention on our list. So, if you can only take one supplement, let collagen be it!
As with most supplements, not all collagen supplements are created equally. Look for collagen peptides, hydrolyzed collagen, or nano-hydrolyzed collagen specifically because it has a much better absorption rate or is more bioavailable.
We also recommend looking for a liquid collagen supplement. There are many liquid collagen benefits, including the fact that single serving protein shots don’t need to be mixed with anything, and they are easy to throw in your pocket or sports bag for when you need them most.
Frog Fuel liquid collagen protein is one of the highest quality collagen supplements on the market today, and is digestible in just 15 minutes. This nano-hydrolyzed collagen protein is easy to absorb, and we included digestive enzymes to make it gentle on your stomach.
Frog Fuel collagen supplements are actually a complete protein supplement. That’s because they are fortified with the amino acids that collagen normally lacks. If you are looking for the best supplements for sports injury prevention, Frog Fuel is great to have on your list.