Sports Nutrition and what’s going on?

As a Macrobiotic practitioner, we treat the human system holistically. Having said that, most parents who’s kids are vegetarian face issues with the protein controversy, and its inclusion in the diet for enhanced performance. They get into debates with their coaches and their peers. Sports Nutrition can be orchestrated for optimal performance in a vegan or vegetarian format. When Alka Sharma came to me to address her needs and ended up talking about her son Sacchitt Sharma who was at that time entering the Wimbledon under 14 representing India, I couldn’t help but give her some tips that would also help him. Alka was very clear she needed to keep him on a plant-based (vegan i.e., also dairy-free) approach, while his own coach was fine with it; the others that had taken the team (from India) having being fed information on supplements and performance enhancers were not happy. Her dedication and hard work to stick to what she believed in, made him eventually win the under 14 Wimbledon title. The same was done with Anya Sinhwala who represents India in swimming under 15 age group. 

With my exercise regimen being vegan myself, I have used the knowledge I have of foods (simple, natural everyday foods) to help me do get the maximum out of my workout, and recover better; without supplements. I admit it’s harder, as one has to make a lot more effort on one’s own; but what I do know is that I will never ever suffer from a setback on my health in the future. What most sports nutritionists are doing today, is making it easier for parents (with all due respect: actually making them lazy) and not helping them understand how they can use natural foods to enhance their child’s performance, energy levels, and recovery time. Instead I see a ‘herd mentality’ being followed, comparisons made when they meet, one parent tells another what they are using, and they load their kids up with stuff that eventually 5-10 years down the line will definitely sap the energy out of their child, and load up their kidneys. 

Please be cautious of the advice that comes your way. I see most parents have no filters when it comes to having their kids use supplements to perform better at a sport. Most supplements have are high on caffeine and sugar, causing kids to perform better for that particular moment; but causing an energy-crash later. The goals of the parent should be to reduce stress, boost energy, and look and feel great about their sport. I am sorry to say I don’t see that happen. 

There are two components that make up an athlete’s life: training and recovery. In the recovery phase, as parents and health practitioners have to reduce the stress from the body and enhance the quality of the rest phase. Instead we load our kids with supplements which actually sap their energy and do not allow for this to happen. The better a diet and the more natural the foods used, the better is the recovery and lesser stress placed on the body. 

Just a simple pant based approach is not enough, for this we need to add high quality, alkaline-forming, easily digestible, and nutrient dense foods. A diet should be able to improve productivity, increase strength and endurance, give you faster recovery, improve the mental state, sleep, productivity, reduce sugar cravings, reduce body fat and maintain lean muscle. 

When an athlete client comes to me it is important to enhance the diet by breaking it down further. I do this by examining phytonutrients from vegetables, giving enzyme providers via foods, reducing inflammation by keeping foods alkaline, looking at bone health, addressing food insensitivities and lifestyle. 

Avoid these items for OPTIMAL SPORTS performance 

  1. Sugars, including hidden sugars in products, watch out for high glycemic index (GI)foods and eat low GI foods.
  2. Dairy and dairy products.
  3. Foods with colours.
  4. Sweeteners.
  5. Hydrogenated fats.
  6. Trans Fat and refined oils.
  7. Nitrates – found in cured and preserved or flavoured meats.
  8. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG).
  9. Processed foods.
  10. Coffee Sodas/colas.
  11. Fried foods.
  12. Excessive alcohol. 

Foods and supplements to include for sports NUTRITION 

  1. Including high fiber foods such as whole grains, lentils/beans, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds and fermented foods.
  2. Eat foods that have zinc: sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, tofu, tempeh, edamame, hemp seeds, cashews, pine nuts, lentils, shiitake mushrooms, spinach, green peas.
  3. Foods with colours.
  4. Eat more of good quality protein.
  5. Eat good quality fats, especially from foods: avocado, nuts, seeds; especially chia seeds and flax seeds.
  6. Trans Fat and refined oils.
  7. Add a good vegan collagen powder to strengthen ligaments and bones. 

Lifestyle help for optimal SPORTS performance 

  1. Be regular with meal times.
  2. Regulate sleep habits.
  3. Engage in meditation.
  4. Add yoga and pranayama.
  5. Keep stress under control. 

Here is a simple recipe to get started with an energy snack: 

2 bananas, ½ cup dates, ¼ cup ground chia seeds, ¼ cup cacao, 1 tbsp coconut oil, 1 tsp lemon juice, ¼ tsp sea salt (process till smooth).

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