How to return to training in the post Covid-19 world

Is your immunity strong enough to go back to training in public places? Are your endurance and performance strong enough to make a comeback?

Tulsi is rich in vitamin C and zinc.   -  S. Thanthoni

It has been more than four months since athletes have been able to visit stadiums or gyms. The coronavirus lockdown seems to be easing in a lot of places; many cities have announced the reopening of sports stadiums and gyms under controlled conditions and guidelines. This is good news as athletes can get back to training and achieve peak physical fitness.

They can now prepare for the Olympics and the Indian Premier League (IPL), and dreams to conquer the podium are in play. My phone has been ringing every day — from Virat Kohli asking what we should do to prepare for the IPL to Joshna Chinappa saying she needs to get ready for her squash tournaments in Manchester in October.

There is uncertainty about everyone and everything — uncertainty about whether their body will respond, uncertainty whether they are safe to play in these conditions, uncertainty about whether 30 days or 120 days or when will the tournaments restart and whether they will be able to fly out of the country to play these competitions. But what is sure is that gyms and stadiums are now welcoming players back again.

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In this pandemic, when an athlete decides to make a comeback to physical fitness in the gym or on the track and field, there are two things to be certain of.

Is your immunity strong enough to go back to training in public places? And are your endurance and performance strong enough to make a comeback?

Nitrates, the active component in beetroot, increases aerobic capacity and the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.   -  S. Siva Saravanan

 

My first recommendation to all players is to do a blood test to check for levels of haemoglobin (Hb), iron, ferritin, and vitamins B12 and D.

These blood parameters will indicate whether you are ready to move to higher-intensity training. For example, if your haemoglobin level is low, it is a clear indication that you will struggle in your fitness comeback, or if your ferritin levels are below 70 nanograms per millilitre (ng/ml), then you will struggle with your VO2 max (the maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured during incremental exercise) and your aerobic capacity, which means that the oxygen level entering your blood is less because of nutritional deficiency. Undergoing these blood tests will also allow you to know whether your immune system has been compromised as it checks your lymph size, white blood cell (WBC) count, and vitamins D and C levels, giving you a clear indication whether you need to alter your nutrition for a better response to your blood and immunity levels.

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As many of my athletes did a blood test in the month of July, we were not surprised that despite being in a lockdown, they maintained very good levels within range because they were on a structured nutrition plan and were taking the supplements under the guidance of their sports nutritionists.

Many athletes who had taken a three-month break and were not disciplined with their diet were found to be lacking in vitamin D and B12 levels, and they had gained weight in terms of fat percentage and a loss of muscle mass.

Amaranth is loaded with antioxidants like vitamins A, C, E, K, B5, B6, folate, niacin and riboflavin.   -  G.P.Sampath Kumar

 

My immediate recommendation to all athletes going back to training in gyms is to boost protein intake in this period as well as look for any nutritional deficiencies that need to be treated with multivitamin and/or standalone supplements. It is imperative that supplements are not randomly prescribed due to the chance of cross-contamination and of a positive test in any dope testing. Below is the list of foods to help you boost your immunity.

Amla — Rich in antioxidants and is an excellent body-detoxifying agent. It is seven times more powerful than spirulina.

Tulsi — The queen of herbs is rich in vitamin C and zinc, which help increase the immunity booster cells in the body.

Beetroot — Nitrates, the active component in beetroot, increases aerobic capacity and the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, leading to improved VO2 max.

Amaranth — Loaded with antioxidants like vitamins A, C, E, K, B5, B6, folate, niacin and riboflavin. Amaranth flour can be used to make porridge, and the red leaves make a power-packed bhaji,

Ginger — Gingerols, shogaols and paradols are valuable ingredients that can boost your immunity because of their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Turmeric — Curcumin is a proven immunity-building agent because of its anti-inflammatory properties. For optimum utilisation of curcumin, combine with black pepper. This not only reduces viral replications, but also reduces inflammation.

Black tea — Contains tannins and alkylamine, which act as anti-viral, anti-bacterial agents directly affecting the immune system. Make a black tea-nimbu pani sports drink.

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Here are five supplements to help you boost your immunity:

(1) Vitamin B12

(2) Vitamin D

(3) Iron supplements

(4) Protein powder (preferably vegan)

(5) Multi-vitamin

Get your doctors or sports nutritionists’ advice on the dosage for your body.

The next 90 days are very crucial for all athletes in all sports. They have to:

(1) Reduce their body fat percentage

(2) Improve their blood chemistry for better immunity

(3) Improve the oxygen-carrying capacity of their blood (Sprinting capacity would have been lost during the lockdown)

Athletes will be travelling to training camps and the respective cities where they have been training all these years. It is important and mandatory to follow the travel and safety guidelines required for protection against the COVID-19 virus. It is also important that you do not eat food that is not prepared under hygienic conditions during this time to avoid getting any food poisoning, or eating any junk foods that will reduce gut health.

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In performance science, we know that the gut health is paramount to maintaining a high level of immunity. This is because a lot of your immunity-based molecules are produced in the gut. So keeping a watch on what you are eating, where you eating and how much you are eating will be a game-changer for you over the next 90 days as you make a comeback to fitness.

Black tea contains tannins and alkylamine, which act as anti-viral, anti-bacterial agents directly affecting the immune system.

 

The changes due to the pandemic have caused serious damage to the quality and quantity of training, further distancing athletes from the realities of their daily training in terms of traditional preparation sites, creating uncertainties about the future. Physical, technical and psychological damage has happened.

To the athlete, significantly reducing training and losing physical performance capacity can mean a loss of competitiveness on a return to competition. Thus, sports science professionals and scientists face the challenge of helping athletes deal with some of these relevant aspects during this comeback period. My phone has not stopped ringing. I am here for you. Let’s get back to winning!

Ryan Fernando is an award-winning celebrity sports nutrition coach and chief nutritionist at Qua Nutrition Signature Clinics.