Sports nutrition: 15 advantages of having a truly personalised diet

Many customised diets fail to consider the individual requirements of athletes, thereby falling short of providing effective sports nutrition.

Published : Aug 18, 2023 10:37 IST - 5 MINS READ

Athletes are inundated with a wide range of diet strategies today because of social media and celebrity sponsorships that promise amazing outcomes.
Athletes are inundated with a wide range of diet strategies today because of social media and celebrity sponsorships that promise amazing outcomes. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Athletes are inundated with a wide range of diet strategies today because of social media and celebrity sponsorships that promise amazing outcomes. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

I have a growing concern about the authenticity of so-called ‘customised’ diet plans that athletes follow. Customising a diet can be claimed to be done. But are athletes being hoodwinked?

Many diet programmes that are advertised as ‘personalised’ usually have a limited scope and fall short of addressing the demands of individual athletes.

Athletes are inundated with a wide range of diet strategies today because of social media and celebrity sponsorships that promise amazing outcomes. These programmes are sometimes referred to as ‘customised’ to give the impression of personalised treatment.

However, it becomes clear upon closer inspection that many of these diet programmes are based on generic templates, with only minimal modifications made to accommodate the athletes’ tastes or nutritional requirements. I recently had an IPL player show me a diet plan submitted by a fitness trainer to him. To an untrained eye it may have looked customised, but when I noticed that the client was given a multi-uavitamin with iron in it, I knew it was generic. You see the client had a haemochromatosis gene which overloads iron in the body. The player is not supposed to take an iron supplement.

While limited scope diet methods could help you lose weight or have some short-term advantages, they don’t take into consideration how complex an athlete’s nutritional requirements are. Athletes participate in a variety of sports, undertake rigorous physical training, and have individual genetic profiles. These many aspects, which are essential for maximising performance, improving recovery, and maintaining long-term health, cannot be properly addressed by a one-size-fits-all meals plan.

So, what should you look for in a personalised diet plan?

A thorough and individualised approach to nutrition is essential to effectively optimise an athlete’s performance, health, and longevity. This entails considering several aspects that affect an athlete’s nutritional requirements, including:

1. Genetic Testing: By studying a person’s genetic makeup, we may learn more about the specific physiological characteristics they possess, such as metabolism, nutrition absorption, and muscle recovery. The scope of genetic testing is in-depth and vast. At Qua Nutrition Clinics, where I practice, we do 20+ genetic testing panels, which give us a crystal ball gazing into the athletes’ health and performance needs.

2. Microbiome Testing: Determining the precise bacterial balance in an athlete’s digestive tract can aid in improving nutrient absorption and general wellness.

Many question why a $200 test is needed and how it will change the outcome of the athletes’ training plan.

3. Omega Balance Testing: Knowing an athlete’s Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acid ratio helps us to promote cardiovascular health and optimise anti-inflammatory responses.

In fact, Omega-3 improves breathing ability as well as reducing DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness).

4. Blood Chemistry: Regular blood testing can help athletes make individualised dietary modifications by providing important information about their nutritional levels, hormonal balance, and general health indicators.

5. Body Composition/Muscle-Fat Ratio/Weight Category Management: Understanding an athlete’s body composition is crucial for choosing the right macronutrient ratios and guaranteeing peak performance in their weight category.

6. Training/Fitness Plan: By matching the diet with athletes’ workout schedules and fitness objectives, their performance will be maximised overall in terms of energy levels, muscle recovery, and general fitness.

7. Recovery Days: During recovery days, individualised diet helps restore glycogen levels, heal muscle damage, and lower the chance of injury.

8. Travelling Schedule: Tailoring the diet plan to athletes’ travel schedules ensures that they receive required nutrition, get enough fluids, and perform at their best when competing.

9. Competition Timetable/Yearly Event Calendar: Adapting the diet strategy to athletes’ competition calendar guarantees they will have enough energy, the right timing of nutrients, and effective recovery techniques during important events.

10. Injuries/Prevention: A diet plan that is specifically designed to address injury issues or enhance injury prevention can help with tissue healing, the decrease of inflammation, and overall recovery.

11. Dietary Allergies & Preferences: Taking into account an athlete’s dietary allergies, intolerances, and personal preferences helps them stick to their diet plan better and improves their overall health.

12. Medical History: It is important to examine an athlete’s medical history when determining whether any special dietary considerations or limitations are necessary for optimum performance and health.

13. Sport Type: By recognising the distinctive nutritional requirements of various sports, sport-specific nutrition plans may be developed to meet the individual needs of each athlete.

14. Goals & Objectives of the Athlete: The diet plan should be tailored to the individual performance, physical appearance, or health objectives of the athlete to ensure that their nutritional intake is optimised to provide the desired results.

15. Coordination and Integration of the Physios and Doctors’ Plan: Working together with physiotherapists and medical professionals makes it easier to match dietary tactics with other components of an athlete’s thorough training and recovery program.

Customising an athlete’s diet is revolutionary. We have been doing the same with our client athletes — both national and international. While some athletes are outspoken about how carefully they manage their diets, many others follow discreetly sophisticated nutrition plans that have changed their lives.

In my experience as a nutritionist who works directly with athletes, individualised nutrition has a profoundly positive effect on both their performance and general well-being

Many a time, athletes confess to me in private that only if they had known the impact of scientific nutrition on their performance, they would have started at a really young age.

These days the support team influence athletes to introspect their diet. The start of the diet revolution has come. It will be bang on for the next generation of athletes. Those that are in their late 20s have lost a good part of the formative years in building a robust body based on sound nutrition. It’s now that your body will begin to scream retirement. It’s time to overhaul the way you eat.

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