Updated: Feb 2
India witnessed a total of seven Olympic Medals in 2021. One gold, two silvers, and four bronze – that was an ecstatic performance by Indian athletes.
Qualifying for the most prestigious sports event to win a medal in their nation’s name requires lots of effort, sacrifice, and hard work.
This long journey of athletes not only includes physical fitness but also diet. Sports diet plays a very important role to build and sustained stamina.
This year’s Olympic star - the best javelin throwers in the world, Neeraj Chopra’s journey started with losing weight till changing his overall lifestyle. At the age of 20, Neeraj is already an Asian Games and Commonwealth Games gold medalist and is now at the Olympics.
Astounding, talented, racquet skills, amazing footwork all came with years of hard work. PV Sindhu believes in the strict regime of training, controlling weight, keeping herself hydrated, and focusing on a recovery diet after sports.
Sports Nutrition is not only important for athletic performance but also for building strength and stamina. Key to the success of sportsperson is an active lifestyle, follow an exercise regime, along with healthy food habits.
Three important points that need to be considered are
· Provide fuel for your muscles.
· Stay hydrated.
· Promote optimal recovery after exercise/ sports activity.
A healthy diet with the optimum amount of energy is needed to finish the race or to achieve the sports target without exerting much. There are chances that athletes may get tired or performance may dropdown if the body doesn’t get enough amount of nutrients such as:
Vitamins and Minerals
The ideal diet for a sportsperson is not very different from the diet recommended for any healthy person.
However, the amount of each food group you need will depend on:
The type of sport
The amount of training you do
The amount of time you spend doing the activity or exercise other than age, weight, and height, and health conditions
Everyone is different, so it is very important for athletes to know
The exact time of eating before or after sports or in between sport
What to eat and
How much to eat.
Carbohydrates are essential to provide energy during exercise/sports. Liver and muscle tissues (glycogen) are the storage house of carbohydrates and are utilized as an energy source during your activity. If your body runs out of carbohydrate fuel during exercise it will burn fat and protein for energy—effect performance level to drop.
High carbohydrate increases the endurance capacity of the muscles.
Carbohydrates before exercise, during exercise, is important for an athlete who is doing more than an hour of intense aerobic exercise.
After exercise, carbohydrates are important to rebuild the stores of energy in your muscles if you are working out heavily.
Protein is vital for muscle growth and to repair body tissues. If there is an insufficient amount of carbohydrates, protein is used as an energy source by the body.
The protein requirement depends on the following factors:
· Type, intensity, and duration of exercise.
· Daily calories intake.
· Intake of carbohydrates.
Only weight training and exercise will change a muscle. To support muscle growth even athletes like bodybuilders need only a little bit of extra protein and can easily meet this increased need by eating an adequate amount of calories required as per their age, weight, and activity.
Eating more or too much protein without recommendations:
Will be stored as increased body fat
Can increase the possibility of dehydration.
May result in a loss of calcium
Can put the burden on your kidneys
It has been usually observed that people who extra protein diet may not get enough carbohydrates which is the powerhouse of energy and must require nutrients for activity/sports.
Your body needs small amounts of fat for certain critical functions and as an alternative energy source to glucose. Eating excess amount of fat is associated with heart disease, some cancers, and other major health problems.
The requirement of fat for energy depends on the intensity and duration of exercise. For example, fat is majorly used as an energy source for low to moderate-intensity exercises. As the intensity of exercise increases your body asks for carbohydrates as fuel.
Adequate fat intake helps to fulfill the essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins through diet.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals, also known as micronutrients, are crucial for different activities which your body performs. They are called metabolic activities such as turning food into energy or keeping bones healthy.
Vitamin and minerals are not required to enhance your performance but their deficiency may cause damage. The intensity, duration, and frequency of the sport/workout and the overall energy and nutrient intakes of the individual all have an impact on whether micronutrients are required in greater amounts or not.
A few common vitamins and minerals found to be of concern in athletes' diets are calcium and vitamin D, vitamin B, iron, zinc, magnesium, as well as some antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, β-carotene, and selenium.
Water - Important Nutrient
Water is an important nutrient but is ignored by athletes. Water and other fluids such as juices, electrolytes, coconut water, lemon water are essential to keep you hydrated and maintain body temperature during activity. Body losses several liters of water during sweating while doing vigorous exercise.
Thirst and Dark color urine are good indicators of fluid requirement. Few important points we can keep into consideration for keeping the body hydrated include:
Make sure you drink plenty of fluids with every meal.
Athletes should ensure to start exercising with enough water in their body.
Continue to sip water during and after your exercise every 15 to 20 minutes. It is important to hydrate your body in the first one hour of activity. It is recommended to have plain water in that period then can shift to electrolytes or energy drinks.
Don’t wait till your body gives you a thirst indicator.
Children always ignore their thirst. It is important to give them water during sports activities. The amount of fluid requirement is usually calculated with the weight loss during the exercise or activity for teenagers and adults.
Athletes should accustom themselves to taking fluid at all exercise intensities, both during training and competition.
Pre and Post-meal diet is very important for a sportsperson to enhance their performance.
Athletes need to be careful while changing their body weight (lose or gain weight) to improve performance else it may do more harm than good. Losing weight quickly or keeping your body weight low or preventing weight gain in an unnatural way can have a negative health effect on your body. It is important to set ideal and realistic goals while doing this with experts advice.
Trialing with diets on your own can lead to poor eating habits with inadequate or excessive intake of certain nutrients. It is always recommended to speak with a health care professional to discuss a diet that is right for your sport, age, sex, and amount of training.
Inculcating correct dietary practices is very important for amateur athletes to increase strength, stamina, endurance, and capacity to perform. It will automatically make you faster and jump higher.