Food Friday: Protein for Healing 

Most of you have been following the saga of my son’s recovery from his fractured femur. He is coming along nicely and that is due in part to his fantastic physical therapy support. They have done physical work, cognitive, and have even talked about the nutritional end of things. In particular, they have emphasized the role of protein, along with Calcium and Vitamin D. 

Protein comes from meat, seafood, poultry, and certain combinations of legumes and grains. (Legumes are foods like peas, beans and lentils.) Under normal circumstances, people need about 0.36 grams per pound of body weight of protein. This is about 50 g per day for a women and 70 g per day for a man. However, during pregnancy, athletic training, and recovery from illness, even more is needed. 

Our son’s therapists have noted that his protein requirements have increased to nearly 100 grams per day as an injured young adult male weighing about 175 #, who is trying to rebuild a femur. This is about a 40 % increase. 

Protein is composed of a string of amnio acids. All animal food are complete proteins, in that the ratio and types of amnio acids present meet human dietary needs. Plant sources of protein need to be combined to fulfill this criteria. For more on this see THIS SECTION on the website. 

In practical terms,  I had to help Vale figure out how to meet this nutritional requirement at a time when his mobility was restricted and his time for cooking was nil. Additionally, we had to take into consideration that more protein intake requires excellent hydration, since metabolism of larger amounts of protein in a dehydrated state is hard on the kideys.  We had to make sure he consumed just the right amount, and not too much since metabolism of excessively high amounts of protein can also cause the bodies calcium to be depleted- not what we want. Finally, I had to take into consideration the following: that protein is best utilized when interspersed evenly throughout the day. 

Here is how we set him up. First I made a one page schedule of meals and activities. I posted it all over his house and set up a google doc for the friends and family who would be helping. Secondly, I made a menu. There would be some constants, and some variables. The constants would be as follows: 

  • Morning:16 ounces of skim milk with a protein powder
  • Midmorning would be a high protein, high fiber oat cereal, and hopefully a hardboiled egg.
  • Lunch would be a can of salmon made like tuna fish salad, with olive oil mayonnaise, relish, and olives. He could also have whatever else he wanted.
  • Mid afternoon would be another high protein snack like a mozzarella cheese stick
  • Dinner would be a traditional cooked dinner with meat chicken or fish, and salad with veggies cooked by family or friends.
  • Fruit could be eaten all through the day
  • A hospital pitcher would be used to measure water intake which was to exceed three liters per day, titrating to nice clear appearing urine (sorry… i’m a doctor, not a food blogger. ) 
  • I had him take a gummy prenatal vitamin and two tablets of Calcium Citrate with D. 
  • The items are simple, edible, and met the criteria. Of importance, I created a routine schedule that would be the same every day to foster compliance. I created checklists in different convenient locations. In other words, I have tried to engineer his nutritional success.

So far so good, as he is already crutching around to class, grateful, and enjoying being back at school.