Workshop | March 6, 2019

Ask the Experts l Excerpts - Diet & Nutrition

Ask the Experts l Excerpts

As the race season in Ahmedabad is almost over, we invited fellow runners and endurance sports enthusiasts for a panel discussion, ‘Ask the Experts - What’s Next?’ with our mentors and leading athletes from Ahmedabad.

  • Yagnesh Ahir - Professional Cyclist and a Founder - Ahmedabad Crankmeisters
  • Priyanka Dalal - Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Sports Performance Coach
  • Hemal Shah - Ultramarathon and Trail Marathon Runner
  • Kavita Shah - Certified Aqua Fitness Instructor, National level Swimmer, and an Avid runner
  • Khushboo Bajaj - Marathon Runner and a Certified Diet and Nutrition Specialist
Khushboo Bajaj

Khushboo Bajaj a Core Committee Member of 42.1, a triathlete and a certified nutritionist answered the audience’s questions on the right diet and nutrition for athletes.

Q: What should be the diet of an endurance athlete?

KB:The daily diet of an athlete should consist of the right combination of carbs, proteins and fats. Carbs are essential for endurance athletes. One needs carbs for long distance running, in fact cutting down on carbs intake from athletes’ diet may result in a decrease in their performance level.

Proteins are also an essential aspect of an athlete’s nutrition. A total of 12-15% of the total calories an athlete consumes, should come from proteins.

Fats have a very important role to play as well, including absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. About 20% of the diet should come from fat, with a greater focus on healthy sources of invisible fat.

It is also essential to ensure sufficient intake of micro nutrients – minerals and vitamins – that are key to ensure smooth functioning of the human machine.

Q: What is an ideal post-workout diet?

KB: For a post-workout meal a mix of complex carbs and proteins in the ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 is considered ideal. The idea is to have it within about 40 minutes of your workout. The carbs help replenish the muscle glycogen and protein helps muscle repair. You must also consume one or more sources of antioxidant vitamins – A, C and E – to reduce the damage and soreness from free-radicals released during the exercise.

Q: What are some of the recommended sources of carbs and proteins?

KB: Some sources of simple carbs to be consumed pre and during workout (particularly when the workout is longer than an hour) can come from banana, chikki, dates and other dried fruits, or gel.

For protein, eggs and meat are the most obvious sources. However, vegetarians also have lots of options including dairy and plant protein from pulses; soya in the form of milk, tofu etc.; even cereal grains such as quinoa, which is one of the very few plant sources of complete protein (all essential amino acids) just like an egg. A good way to ensure better protein uptake from plant sources is to mix different foods for instance khichdi/daal rice, curd rice, mixed pulses, etc.

Q: What are the ideal sources of minerals and vitamins?

KB: The key is to keep it as natural as possible. Some minerals and vitamins are absorbed better when the food is raw and some when the food is cooked. However, it is essential to avoid processed food as much as possible – including refined sugar, white rice, sauces with additives and preservatives etc. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of the various vitamins and minerals. The best way to ensure proper supply of all essential micro nutrients is to include the various colors in your daily diet – yellow, orange, red, green, purple etc. While consuming fruits and veggies, follow the motto “Eat your fruits and drink your vegetables!”

Q: What kind of food, one should consume before or during a race?

KB: It is essential that athletes fuel themselves with the right food before, during and even after the race. While one hydration strategy does not work for everyone, it is a good idea to understand what your body needs at the different times.

‘Carb loading’, a well-known concept in the endurance sports circuit, is essential to ensure muscle glycogen is restored to its optimum level for energy supply during the race. Depending on the race category one must start carb loading 2-5 days before the race day.

On the race day, before the race one needs some supply of simple carbs, up to 15 minutes prior to the race. During the race it is essential to keep hydrated, replenish the electrolytes and carbs if your race is likely to go beyond one hour. During the race, again the simple carbs can come from various sources – banana, chikki, sports drink, gel etc. Post-race, one must have a proper meal, similar to the post-workout meal indicated above, and size depending on the length of your workout.

Read excerpts from Swimming, Running, Cycling, and Performance & Conditioning here.

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