Discipline of mind — hallmark of Sindhu’s success

Interacting with P. V. Sindhu, I realised that she has become a champion because she prepared like a champion. My advice to every budding sportsperson is to plan your training, mental health and nutrition like a champion, invest in coaches and, moreover, enjoy the journey.

The author with the two-time Olympic medallist P. V. Sindhu and Sport psychologist Mugdha Dhamankar-Bavare at the PNB MetLife JBC Dugout in Hyderabad.   -  Special Arrangement

It was a rainy day in Hyderabad when I recently met P. V. Sindhu on a panel to talk about what it takes to become an Olympic medal winner. Sindhu is now graced with two medals from two Olympics. There was a Sports Psychologist and me, the nutritionist. Over one hour we deconstructed the different verticals for building a champion mindset and a powerful body.

We all knew that Sindhu had not touched ice cream for almost a year before the Olympics. When the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, called her up and asked her what she was missing, she said the first thing she would do when she was back — she would eat ice cream. The Prime Minister remembered it and when they met, he offered her ice cream. She ate it!

READ: Let nutrition be the base of your success

Now, a month later, as we sat on the panel, the host of the event and a famous RJ, Mihir, decided to, impromptu, offer her ice cream on stage. Now, most athletes would have accepted and had a spoon, at least. Sindhu smiled and, when forced to take a bite, giggled and said, “ It’s cold, I will have it later.” The discussion continued, the ice-cream melted and we finished our event. Then we shot some selfies and the host again asked her to eat some of the melted ice cream and she said, ‘after the photos.’ I was the last to leave the hall that evening as a guest. The ice cream remained untouched on the dais. I realised that a champion has the discipline of mind to overcome and decide what he/she needs to do. Sindhu, in my view, is truly a discipline warrior. That’s the reason she has two Olympic medals. After my former client Sushil Kumar, who won two Olympic medals, I saw the greatness in Sindhu and she may go on to get that coveted gold too! She has it in her.

#1 Eat for performance

Feed your body and not your tastebuds. Understand what your body requires to perform at its maximum level and then plan your nutrition around it. Once you achieve your target you can let it loose and feed your tastebuds just like Sindhu did by having an ice cream with the PM. Then get back to your nutrition for the next competition.

#2 Lay a strong foundation

Most athletes turn towards nutrition only at the later stage of their life. At that moment you can only cover the cracks. Sports nutrition at a young age is the key to superior performance and a long career. So, before you invest in your first shoes, apparels or racquet, learn what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat for your human growth and game performance. Also key is: learn what not to eat — food that damages your body and performance.

#3 Nutrition is a process

The right nutrition is a guarantee to supreme functioning of each cell in your body. But it requires time. When athletes visit me 15 days prior to the tournament to help them to better performance, I tell them that only their skin will look better in such a short span of time. Nutrition is a process and requires time and investment, but the benefits of it are lifelong.

#4 Nutrition also requires planning

You know your training schedule, you know your travelling schedule, you know your competition schedule, but when it comes to dal, chawal, roti, you eat whatever you can lay your hands on. If you can plan your nutrition and integrate it with your training and matches, you can perform at your peak with the right nutrients before, during and after training/matches.

#5 Eat scientifically

Even athletes in the same sport train differently. Their regimen is different, their training load, practice sessions, recovery days, physio sessions are all different. Nutrition also requires customisation to deliver the results. Plan your nutrition based on your blood chemistry, body composition, genetics, training loads, medical conditions and calorie requirements. A routine blood test with all vitamin and mineral makers, every six months, is a must. Doing a nutrition and fitness gene test may guide you on your food choices. If you have a gluten allergy you can eliminate gluten just like how World No. 1 tennis champ Novak Djokovic did.

#6 Nutrition deficiencies

So often we see a puzzled athlete who’s been training really hard, diligently following a schedule, very disciplined and taking all the right actions and still feels he/she is not able to play to the best. When there are existing nutrition deficiencies, a player might lack the energy to push through that final hurdle. Blood tests, genetic tests, omega balance tests help athletes with the right data to take corrective measures. These corrective measures include enhancing superfoods. I give pumpkin and sunflower seeds for magnesium boost. Also supplements can help if recommended in accordance with the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) rules.

#7 Sleep

Athletes underestimate the value of quality sleep. Sleep duration and the quality of sleep fasten recovery, decrease injury risk and help to improve performance. Athletes should make conscious efforts to reduce their screen time in order to get enough sleep. In terms of foods, walnuts and chamomile tea should be consumed to promote sleep. Sleep is the new diet!

READ: Tickle your tastebuds: The Japanese secret to long life

#8 Discipline of eating

Who doesn’t like to indulge in ice cream, sweets and all other stuff that gives your taste buds a momentary satisfaction? But when you set up a goal for yourself, when you want to be the best player in your city, district, state, country and international, you need discipline to achieve it and when it comes to food that an athlete eats 8-11 times in a day, it requires proper planning, nutrient balancing and, of course, the discipline to follow it.

#9 Food cravings can also mean nutrition deficiency

Cravings can also be a signal from a body that it requires certain nutrients. So, when you crave chocolate it actually means that your body needs magnesium which is available in nuts and seeds. When you crave sugary foods, your body actually wants more tryptophan and phosphorus which are available via sweet potato, grains, and raisins. Sometimes these cravings can be just for mental gratification and athletes should try to not give into the temptation, keeping the higher goals in mind. The fight with cravings does not start with the taste buds, rather it starts in the mind. Many a time athletes do not balance their carbs right. This also leads to cravings.

#10 There is no magic pill

We live in a world where instant gratification is the need of the hour. Food, clothes, groceries — you name it and you will get it at the click of the button. But when it comes to sport there is no instant result. Everything comes with discipline, labouring and detailed planning. So, my message to the athletes who rely heavily on supplements is straightforward and clear: it won’t work. Supplements can only give results when you plan your nutrition well. Get your diet structured and scientifically planned. There is no magic pill to the Olympic medal.

Interacting with P. V. Sindhu, I realised that she has become a champion because she prepared like a champion. My advice to every budding sportsperson is to plan your training, mental health and nutrition like a champion, invest in coaches and, moreover, enjoy the journey. If you don’t understand how to, watch Usain Bolt run his races. He’s always smiling!

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :