There is perhaps little doubt that the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every aspect of our lives — from forcing the economy nearly ground to a halt, straining the healthcare system to outright quarantines. Considering the unique history of the coronavirus, it is still believed that our food choices may hold critical importance, as the world population increases to record levels in the next few years.
With the outbreak causing the entire sports domain to go on a temporary hiatus, athletes are forced to stay behind the doors and shut out their usual training routine and normal practice. From eating right to working out well, there is a critical question made even more difficult by increasing caution over the spreading disease. The Bridge caught up with one of the country’s most celebrated sports nutritionists, Sayali Naik to reflect upon the importance of nutrition and athletic performance amid lockdown.
The suspension of physical training has made life in confinement a little more than challenging for athletes. Without it, speed and explosiveness are quickly lost. The coronavirus does present many uncertainties, while none of us can eliminate the greater risks of ending up being infected with it. But what we can definitely stick by is to eat as healthily as possible.
“There is a lot of negativity and false information in terms of food and supplements required to prevent virus infection. We must remember that any specific diet won’t help us prevent the infection, but might help boost immunity in some way. Athletes should not fall prey to unhealthy eating patterns, as it might affect their performances negatively later,” Sayali explains.
Effective diet and nutrition are an important part of an athlete’s training. A sportsman’s valued qualities like strength, agility, endurance, and vigilance are the result of his nutrition-rich diet regimen most often recommended. During this brief quarantine period, as Sayali explains, it is important for an athlete to maintain his immunity levels, prevent fat gain, as well as adapting to good eating and indoor workout habits. Exactly.
We are aware of how a varied amount of exercise and a balanced eating plan together makes it important to achieve and maintain strength, flexibility, and endurance. But then, how does one build an ideal nutritional plan? “One can maintain a well-balanced nutritious diet, including whole grains, dairy products, poultry products, nuts, fresh fruits, and vegetables. This will help boost immunity and strength. Nutritious food is key to increasing the immunity levels, especially with high protein, moderate carbohydrate, and fibre diet comprising of micronutrients like anti-oxidants.”
Every athlete strives for an edge over the competition. Daily training and recovery require a comprehensive eating plan that matches these physical demands. However, there is a piece of much differing information out there when it comes to nutrition. As a consequence, it can be sometimes difficult to figure out the healthiest ways to eat. But having said that, one might wonder what to expect to familiarise with specific requirements and limitations while consuming a proper diet.
For instance, crash dieting is widely favoured due to the immediate results gained. But is it worth the try, one may argue. “Crash diets can restrict your calorie intake by eliminating several food groups and let you eat low-calorie food. It is capable of inducing rapid weight loss. It is not healthy, sustainable and it is very likely that it will create unwanted health problems,” she says.
What’s the deal with a vegan diet amid coronavirus? Can a vegan diet help fend off the virus? Hear from Sayali. “This is a hotly debated topic. I believe that nutrition trends are volatile and biased often. It is not that a vegan diet isn’t beneficial. But again, it is important for maintaining immunity and achieving extraordinary performance levels. However, it is important to seek guidance from a sports nutritionist for food timings, calories, supplements and get your diet plan customised as per your goals,” Sayali explains.
But having said that, we must not forget the heightened significance of what we are consuming or how our food is being processed, regardless of what impact might have been caused since the outbreak of the virus.
However, it will be of keen interest to note how the world responds to the spread of the virus over the next few days. It is a firm belief that by upholding our core values of being active in the search of new knowledge, we can certainly tackle this global challenge together. “This is a challenge of self-control in terms of binge eating. Try avoiding unhealthy food, no matter how tempting it seems. Restrict yourself to only home-cooked food, which is rich in protein and anti-oxidant. This will help prevent fatigue and injuries,” adds Sayali.