Your body is your real-life partner

If you learn to listen to your body, if you are conscious of your body’s signals, you will get the maximum performance out of it.

When Sourav Ganguly has undergone two heart procedures in his late 40s, should we be worried that athletes need to focus beyond performance?   -  AFP

Who is an athlete’s real partner? We consider many individuals to be our partners throughout our lives, whether it be parents who sacrifice and support the athletes to follow their dreams, the coach who inculcates important habits and techniques, or your partner who believes in you and lives the same dream.

We love, care and cherish these relationships, but are they our true life partners?

The truth is your body is your real-life partner. It has incredible capabilities and gives you back what you give to it. If you respect it, care for it, it will allow you to live your dream longer and win medals. Your body is your dedicated partner that will be with you for your lifespan. Caring for the body should always be on the priority list, especially for athletes whose careers can be defined by their bodies’ health status.

When Sourav Ganguly has undergone two heart procedures in his late 40s, should we be worried that athletes need to focus beyond performance? Should health be given more focus upon retirement? Whether in your prime or in retirement, your body needs you to be true to itself.

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What does your body say?

Your body is a gift that you have got from your parents. You have got one set of DNA from each of your parents, and when these mix together, you get yourself a unique DNA formation. You might be genetically superior or inferior to your competition, but you will be unique.

If you learn to listen to your body, if you are conscious of your body’s signals, you will get the maximum performance out of it.

For instance, it’s a common belief that athletes should drink a lot of milk. While milk has its own benefits, what if you are lactose intolerant and your body cannot process milk? It will create uneasiness in the body, which would be sufficient for you to not hit top gear as it will disrupt your training, recovery or match performance.

That’s why the word “performance” is so closely associated with sports. There are many gifted athletes on this planet. Still, only a few can understand their body’s needs and devise an action plan backed by scientific methods to get it to perform at a high level consistently.

Ultimately, your body is your responsibility, and it is up to you to make the right choices. For a good, performing body, there are a few things you might consider trying.
 

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Nutrition

For athletes, nutrition is vital because it provides a source of energy needed for the activity to be carried out. Our vitality, training, output, performance and recovery are affected by the food we consume.

To get the best out of the human body, you need a science-based, structured nutrition plan. Meticulous, data-based planning is required to calculate what to eat, how much to eat and when to eat.

Remember, nutrition is bio-individual. Each athlete is unique, their genes are different, their eating habits are different, they might play different sports or even the same sport, but the training output might be different, their blood chemistry will be different, their family’s medical history will be different, and, hence, a standard diet plan will not work.

Following others’ plans can also prove to be detrimental. Please exercise caution when you read information that is freely available on the Internet. It lacks validation and scientific backing. Always seek an expert’s opinion.

Foods for athletic performance: Beetroot, eggs, chia seeds, milk (if not lactose intolerant), coffee.

Exercise/training

How hard do you train when nobody is watching you? Athletes work harder than most people on the planet. They put hours into training their muscles and brain.

Your match-day performance reflects your training efforts. Put in the extra effort, but don’t over-train. Take the help of your coaches and trainers to get you a structured plan with a focus on the crucial working muscles.

The best thing Covid taught us is that you can now train anywhere if you want to. You could just use the Internet, your laptop or mobile phone, and a mat. Connecting with specialists for advice has never been so easy.

Boost your training/exercise performance with these foods: Bananas, dates, black coffee (do a gene test to know if your body can process the coffee), blackberries, greens.

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Mental well-being

For high athletic performance, mental well-being is as important as physical fitness. There is always constant pressure on athletes to perform, which brings stress and anxiety. Sports injuries can lead to psychological challenges, such as: (a) Frustration at not being able to function; (b) Fear that you won’t be able to play again; and (c) If you play, you won’t be able to perform at the same level. Athletic careers can be short-lived with a lot of ups and downs. To sail through this roller-coaster ride, one needs to be mentally fit.

Meditate, and speak to near and dear ones, if you had a bad match. Share with someone to take it off your chest. Seek professional help; a lot of athletes and teams now work closely with mental performance coaches to stay fit and healthy.

Foods to boost your mental wellness: Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B12, iron, zinc, vitamin, magnesium.

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Sleep, rest and recovery

We all understand and acknowledge the importance of training for high performance. However, rest and rehabilitation are also essential parts of athletic development as they give the body time to heal and strengthen itself.

Proper rest helps the athlete to recover, both physically and psychologically. During the recovery period, the body adapts to training-related stress, repairs damaged body tissue and restores muscle glycogen.

Sleep, when it comes to sports performance, is another significant part of rest and recovery. Sleep-deprived athletes are at risk of losing aerobic stamina and can experience subtle shifts in hormone levels, contributing to higher cortisol levels, i.e., stress hormones. It can also disrupt the tissue repair process as inadequate sleep decreases growth hormone production.

The bottom line is performance depends on how hard you train and how well you rest.

Foods for sleep and recovery: Walnuts, pomegranate juice, cottage cheese, sweet lime.

This Valentine’s Day, you may have bought your loved one a gift. Did you ask your body what gift it wanted? Your body, after all, is your real-life partner.

The author is a celebrity sports nutritionist at Qua Nutrition clinics and can be reached at www.ryanfernando.in.

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