A sportsperson's nutrition secrets for optimum performance

Nutritionist Shiny Surendran warned that blindly following the heroes to become vegan and completely avoiding animal products may not be a good idea.

Virat Kohli

Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli warms up during a training session at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium.   -  AFP

Virat Kohli and Novak Djokovic have the power to drive millions around the world on to their path. They are arguably the two most famous vegans in the world of sports.

Nutritionist Shiny Surendran warned that blindly following the heroes to become vegan and completely avoiding animal products may not be a good idea for sportspersons aspiring to imitate their heroes without finding adequate alternate nutrients.

In a series of webinars and discussions during the lockdown, Chennai-based Shiny, who has done a two-year course on sports nutrition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), was able to assert the need for a healthy gut.

She termed gut as the second brain in the body, with the crucial role of imbibing the nutrients from the food that we consume.

She warned that the problem could be food intolerance if someone does everything right, and still does not have optimum levels of energy, as was the case with Djokovic before he was diagnosed with gluten intolerance.

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Advising every sports association to have a qualified nutritionist on board to advise and guide all the athletes in their fold, Shiny said that tweaking food habits and customising it to each athlete was the way forward towards high performance in every discipline of sports.

With rich experience of dealing with a variety of sportspersons over the years, Shiny emphasised the need to use local food for better absorption and assimilation into the system.

"Foods that grow in your city or nearby districts are loaded with nutrients. Eat what your ancestors ate and choose freshly prepared foods," she said, quoting medical expert, Dr. Mark Hyman, who treats food as the best medicine.

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Sports nutritionist Shiny Surendran   -  Special Arrangement



"The requirement for nutrients vary throughout the year," Shiny said, even as she stressed the need for different intake during off-season, pre-competition and injury rehabilitation periods.

Talking about food allergies and intolerances, Shiny assured that "once the diet is customised, there will be marked improvement in sharpness of mind, quickness in decision making, better recovery, improvement in muscle mass, etc."

Seven-time Olympian, the supremely fit Leander Paes was impressed to hear Shiny suggesting the idea of first having a cup of water to check the reality of a sudden feeling of hunger.

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"Equip yourself with knowledge of nutrition and make prudent food choice. Every tennis player will benefit immensely, if they learn to cook a meal. This is a life skill and comes handy for players traveling extensively," she said.

The best part about reaching a nutritionist is the long list of suitable food that they offer for every requirement.

Pointing out the rich nutrients even in a simple food item like fermented rice, Shiny suggested that it was important to know all the options and choose sensibly.

She expressed shock about athletes being brainwashed to investing about ₹20,000 every month on supplements, which also have the added danger of being contaminated.