Athletics, which is a combination of track and field events, can be a very exhausting and demanding sport. Running, walking and marathons can drain the energy out of athletes; multiple-event formats like triathlon, pentathlon and decathlon test more rigorously one’s stamina, fitness, mental toughness, patience and perseverance.
Muscle fatigue, calorie expenditure and injuries are much higher in athletics, compared to some other sports. This requires, on the part of an athlete, a steel-like mental and physical preparation.
Mental preparation is a combination of attitude, motivation and external help from sports psychologists.Physical preparation is more complex and it involves the right quality and quantity of guided training, exercise, diet and sleep.
What an athlete must and mustn’t eat
Diet plays a significant role in athletics. You can explore the limits of nutrition without watching your weight, in the case of team events like football, hockey, basketball, etc. However, the same is not true of individual sports like boxing, wrestling, bodybuilding and athletics, where one’s weight too matters.
It becomes imperative then to balance the quantum of carbohydrates consumed in order to derive energy or stamina, with the right quality and quantity of proteins consumed for muscle gain. Race, religion and culture influence the diet of athletes as much as they do that of a common person.
Nevertheless, there are some general guidelines followed by most athletes around the world, and they can be beneficial to others as well.
In the past, sportsmen such as Michael Phelps used to consume gargantuan diets in order to build muscle without fat. A study conducted by SB Nation and Eater onthe training diets of Olympic athletes revealed that professional athletes in recent times were amazingly choosy about what they should and shouldn’t eat.
- What they ate: Eggs, lean meat such as poultry (without skin), fish and sea-food were extremely popular followed by vegetables – either raw, cooked or blanched, fruits without added sugar, low-fat dairy products, nuts and nut butter. This gave them the right mix of flavor and nutrition. Ginger, turmeric, banana, beetroot, kale, lettuce and tomatoes were names that kept popping up repeatedly. Whole-grains were the preferred source of carbohydrates.
- Whatthey didn’t: They generally avoided sugary pastries, red meat, salad dressings, processed food, starchy tubers and products made of refined flour. Those with a sweet tooth preferred fruit smoothies to cake, cookies or ice cream.
Steamed food: healthy and tasty
When it came to style of cooking, most of them preferred grilled, boiled or steamed food to the stir-fried;they avoided the deep-fried as much as possible. This is because steaming with or without pressure is the most effective way to enhance the nutrition and digestibility of most foods.
Pressure cooking goes a step further, as it cooks food quickly and reduces exposure to heat. No wonder that there has been so much innovation and variety in the materials, sizes and technology features of pressure cookers in recent years.
It goes without saying that what is good for professional athletes is good for the common person too. If you have been steaming food only occasionally and cooking in other ways, its time you adopted the above practices of professional sportspeople. This is how you can derive great benefits in the form of enhanced nutrition and much better health.