Nutrition & Pulled Muscles

Pulled muscles, also called strained muscles, occur when the fibers stretch beyond their range of movement. In addition to stretching and warming up prior to a workout, proper nutrition can help prevent and heal muscle strains. A balanced diet that includes certain nutrients can help repair the fibers in torn muscle tissue. If you believe you have a muscle injury but it does not appear to be getting better, see your doctor as soon as possible. It may be a serious injury that requires medical care.

A runner holding his hamstring in pain.
Credit: DenizA/iStock/Getty Images

Muscle Strains

Muscle strains are common injuries caused by over-stretching or tearing the fibrous cords of tissue in muscles or tendons. This type of injury can occur during a sudden, abrupt movement or over time through repetitive movements, such as sports. Symptoms of muscle strain include pain, muscle spasms, swelling and limited movement. Several nutrients play important roles in healing your pulled muscles.


Amino acids that constitute protein are the building blocks of muscle tissue. Protein helps to rebuild damaged muscle tissue and build new muscle tissue. Inadequate protein intake may slow the growth of your muscles and lead to muscle fatigue. The Institute of Medicine recommends adults consume between 10 and 35 percent of their dietary intake in the form of protein. Good sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, fish and beans.


Vitamin A helps repair tissue, making it an important nutrient for muscle healing. The Institute of Medicine recommends adult men consume 900 international units of vitamin A and women consume 700 international units of vitamin A per day. Vitamin C is essential in the production of collagen, an important substance that allows your cells to form new tissue. In addition to healing injured muscles and tendons, this vitamin helps strengthen your bones and other tissues. Foods that contain vitamin C include citrus fruits, tomatoes, spinach and broccoli.


Various minerals help in muscle recovery. Your cells require iron to help them receive oxygen and eliminate carbon dioxide. This mineral helps your body produce myoglobin, an important element in muscle health. The recommended amount of iron is 8 mg for men and 15 milligrams for women. Natural sources of iron include pork, lentils, eggs, grains and kale. Magnesium is a mineral that helps your body use protein. It helps maintain the tone of your muscles, and it can affect their ability to contract and relax. The Institute of Medicine recommends that adult men consume between at least 400 milligrams and women consume at least 310 milligrams of magnesium per day. Calcium, found in dairy products, vegetables and fortified foods, works closely with magnesium to relax muscles, according to the book Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition, by Lawrence Stern and Charles Bernick.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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