Practice apart, an athlete’s diet is extremely important too. We take a look at the kind of foods you can eat for better strength and stamina
The Olympics are here and sports enthusiasts across the world are gearing up for a season of games and catching all their favourite athletes in action. For some though being as fit as swimmer Michael Phelps or as lithe as pole vaulter Angelica Bengtssont is a dream. Exercise and practice might be the mantra for most sports enthusiasts, but there is another important factor that helps build endurance and strength that simply cannot be ignored — diet.
“A diet that has the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats is extremely important. Usually 60 per cent of the energy comes from carbohydrates, 15 to 20 per cent from fats and the remaining 20 per cent from proteins. This distribution of course varies for each individual and the kind of sports they are playing,” says Dr Latha Sashi, nutritionist at Nutrifit.
Most athletes and sportspersons require continuous endurance and this they can get from complex carbohydrates. “Foods like whole grains, legumes, grams, ragi, jowar, bajra or quinoa are a great source of complex carbs. This should then be supplemented with an adequate protein intake for complete fitness. The total calorie intake required is calculated based on an individual’s body weight and nutritional status. The calories are then distributed from all the nutrients mentioned,” she says.
Although fats are necessary to keep up the stamina and energy, saturated fats should be limited. Essential fats can be sourced from products like cooking oil, milk and milk products and nuts.
“Even when it comes to protein intake, an individual must ensure they are consuming high biological value proteins. So eating eggs, milk proteins, dal, grams, chicken and fish are some of the various options one can choose,” says Dr Latha.
For all those who dream to be as fit as an athlete, do remember that it’s always better to stay away from fried and junk food. The focus should be on consuming food that gives you a sustained energy release so you can keep pace with your hectic requirements as a sports person. Also eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Smaller meals eaten every three to four hours is a great way to keep the metabolism rate going. This can be broken into three big meals and three snacks. The snacks could be fruit/vegetable with yogurt, soy milk and nuts, sprouts etc. These are low in calories but high in nutritional value. As an athlete who sweats a lot it is also important to keep oneself well hydrated. So drink at least three litres of water a day. Electrolyte based drinks like coconut water, buttermilk or lime juice are also a good way of replenishing the electrolytes lost in sweat,” says Dr Latha.
Foods to choose
- Quinoa, a South American grain, is said to be a super food, rich in proteins and a great way of boosting your energy. Most supermarkets should stock this grain that can be eaten either as a khichdi, mixed with dosa atta or added to your salad.
- Oatmeal is another food that is packed with energy and takes longer to digest, ensuring you don’t snack unnecessarily. Slow digestion also keeps blood sugar at optimal levels. Make a porridge, eat it as a cereal or simply cookies.
- Beans are a powerful food to increase stamina due to their high iron content. They are also high in protien and provides sustained energy.
- Sprouts and brown rice are another great source of energy.
- Fish like salmon, trout and mackerel are also great options.
- Make fresh vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, your best friends.