Every athlete strives for an edge over the competition. Daily training and recovery require a comprehensive eating plan that matches these physical demands. But over the past few weeks, the athletic world has been taken down and brought to a halt by the novel COVID-19, urging the cancellation of several events ranging from international levels to the domestic ones. The situation that demands social distancing and self-quarantine has forced athletes to stay behind the doors and has shut out their usual training routine and normal practice.
Unprecedented situations have called for unprecedented measures. From eating right to working out well, there is a question made even more difficult by increasing caution over the spreading disease. In a similar vein, The Bridge caught up with the country’s one of the most celebrated sports nutritionists, Mihira AR Khopkar to scrutinise the role of nutrition in performance enhancement of athletes amid coronavirus lockdown. What’s more, she will also share her insights on how to take control of your own nutrition and integrate proven strategies in your daily routine.
Beyond the shadow of any doubt, the suspension of events and physical training has made life in confinement a little more than challenging for athletes. The coronavirus means specific training is difficult for athletes. Without it, speed and explosiveness are quickly lost.
Nutrition for the active athlete in all of us
We are aware how a varied amount of exercise and a balanced eating plan together makes it important to achieve and maintain strength, flexibility, and endurance. “Athletes and coaches are in dilemma about the way to proceed. The nutrition periodisation has gone for a toss. But, athletes can surely focus on three factors: a) try and continue maintaining your muscle mass; b) prevent any additional weight gain; c) keep your immunity up,” Mihira says.
The deadly coronavirus has the world on edge. One can spot the signs of the alarm being everywhere, both big and small. You can see them in the faces of subway riders when someone coughs or in the eyes of an Uber driver peering above his face mask in the rearview mirror.
One must have a sound immune system, as Mihira puts it, to help battle out the symptoms. However, maintaining a robust immune system is highly vital and can be built and maintained by establishing healthy eating habits and adopting healthy lifestyle practices. Mihira explains, “Nutrition is key to buliding immunity. It starts with protein to a varied diet including micronutrients that are rich in anti-oxidants.”
What is an ideal eating plan to fuel up for fitness among injured athletes?
Eating a good diet can help provide the energy you need to finish a race or be at your usual best in any physical activity. You are more likely to be tired and perform poorly during sports when you do not get enough. Now whether you are a world-class athlete or an exercise enthusiast, nutrition is fundamental for fitness. Many athletes that complain of constant fatigue and have trouble recovering after workouts may simply need to look at their eating habits. With no physical training available, how does an athlete build an ideal nutritional plan?
Experts suggest it is all about balanced proportions of a nutrient-rich diet from various food groups, and adhering to several healthy eating habits. Besides, vitamin and mineral use has skyrocketed over the past decade as the nation has experienced a massive health and wellness boom. “An injured athlete should look out for protein, Indian salmon that contains high amounts of omega-3 making it a good anti-inflammatory tool or walnuts, fruits and vegetables as well as nuts and oil seeds for getting back the stamina and energy.
In addition, one can have functional food in their diet, like turmeric or cinnamon in milk, or beetroot juice. Spinach, a rich source of nitrates, can have a good healing effect of the injured tissue. If consumed, one can definitely aim for a speedy recovery.”
What’s the deal with supplements?
This is a very hotly debated topic. Supplements include products such as protein powders, creatine, amino acids, mega-dose vitamins/minerals, weight loss aids, energy boosters, etc. But should health supplements replace a well-balanced diet, one may still argue. Human bodies, as Mihira admits, are naturally designed to absorb and make use of nutrients as they occur in foods. Having said that, considering some addition of multi-vitamins or micro-nutrient supplementation can prove effective at times.
Do energy drinks boost sports performance?
We wonder what could be better for our over-scheduled, constantly-on-the-go, busy athletes than something called an ‘energy drink’. While brewing an extra pot of tea can be pleasing to hear, we seem to have latched on to this wildly popular beverage choice to go one step ahead. The reason? As an athlete, or someone focussed on increasing fitness levels and endurance, one can gain benefits from the carb content of energy drinks, Mihira says.
“Energy drinks like Red Bull are extremely popular among athletes, primarily because of a good combination of caffeine and taurine. This is good not just for CNS stimulation, but having a sustained amount of focus,” adds Mihira. By managing home training sessions and maintaining a nutritious diet as well as hygienic lifestyle, athletes can avert the danger of the deadly virus and carry on their sporting lifestyle.