Eating for tendon health

Support your connective tissues’ health with a nutrient-rich, low-inflammation diet.

  • Eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat enough protein, which provides the “building blocks” of tissue repair.
  • Limit inflammatory foods (such as processed foods and sugar) as well as any foods to which you know you’re intolerant.

Work out smart

  • Try a safety bar squat or a cross arm (“genie”) front squat instead of regular barbell back squats to decrease elbow stress.
  • Do fewer isolation exercises for biceps and triceps. Instead, focus on compound exercises where the load is higher and the stress is distributed over more than one joint.
  • If it hurts, avoid it. Find an alternative.
  • Vary your movements and loading. Take a day off between intense workouts. Build in recovery days each week with easy movement and mobility work. Have a diverse roster of activities instead of doing the same handful of things over and over.
  • You can use an elbow band if you find it comfortable during workouts.
  • Try lifting straps to decrease the amount of gripping necessary for heavy lifts, like this.
  • Look at overall upper body mobility. A tight posterior shoulder capsule may contribute to elbow pain.
  • Build a solid foundation and mechanics before you increase the speed or resistance at which you do something. Remember that connective tissues take a long time to build and heal.

Live smart

  • Check your computer workstation. If your hands are always in pain, change the setup.
  • Engage in rehab with pain free strengthening exercises (wrist curls, reverse wrist curls, elbow flexion, elbow extension, forearm pronation/supination).
  • Return to full-strength activities gradually. You may need as much as a year of rehab exercises.

Eat smart

Try the following foods and/or supplements that help to moderate inflammation and promote tissue healing:

  • Foods/supplements rich in omega-3 fats:
    Algae oil, flax, chia, hemp, walnuts, leafy greens, fish, fish and marine oils (e.g. krill and algae)
  • Foods/supplements rich in flavanoids:
    Turmeric, garlic, pineapple, tea, berries, cocoa
  • Foods rich in vitamin C:
    Guava, red bell pepper, broccoli, green bell peppers, strawberries, grapefruit, kohlrabi, papaya, Brussels sprouts, kiwi, mango, oranges
  • Foods rich in vitamin A:
    Carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, collards, kale, watercress, beets, winter squash, tomatoes, dried apricots, mango
  • Foods rich in zinc:
    Mushrooms, spinach, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, green peas, baked beans, cashews, whole grains, oysters, chicken, crab, lamb, beef, pork, turkey, lobster, wheat germ, watermelon seeds
  • Foods rich in copper:
    Mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, barley, soybeans, tempeh, sunflower seeds, navy beans, garbanzo beans, cashews, molasses, beef liver, oysters, lobster, crab, chocolate, cocoa powder.
  • Amino acids:
    Supplementing with arginine (7 grams, 2x/day), HMB (1.5 grams, 2x/day), and glutamine (7 grams, 2x/day) might assist in collagen deposition and injury healing.

Also, try keeping a food journal as well as tracking your pain / inflammation symptoms.

See if you notice any correlations. When is your pain better or worse? Do particular foods seem to make a difference?

Many people find that when they remove inflammatory foods, and/or foods to which their body reacts, they have less joint pain.