Madan Kandara - Sunday, April 22, 2012

Optimal nutrition is one of the three essential pillars of a champion athlete; other two being fitness and mental skills.
So, once an athlete is able to upgrade his/her games skills to the highest level and is able to achieve his/her optimal physical and mental fitness, then only other factor which can improove his/her performance is optimal nutrition.
Optimal nutrition basically helps to complement all these assets. It helps athletes to keep performing at high levels by supplying right fuels and keep fatigue away. The simple goal of a nutrition plan surrounding a competition or an event is to help athlete to be able to perform at an optimal desired level for right outcome.
Inculcating a balanced nutritional plan on daily basis helps any one and more so to elite level athletes. These athletes also need to have special attention to their nutrition when the competition or an event is around. Modification of nutritional plans is part of preparation. The competition nutrition plan is actually divided into pre-competition, during competition and post competition nutrition.
Most important and delicate planning is needed for pre-competition period. Many competitions are by nature, not suited to allow a liberty to follow optimal nutrition during competition proper. Post-competition nutritional plans are essential and are oriented to quick recovery of depleted nutrients.
All the factors influencing pre-competition nutritional plans have to be taken into account. For example while preparing an endurance sports competition, where carbohydrate (CHO) loading may be needed, it is important to understand the proper indications and contraindications of carbohydrate (CHO) loading. Importance of using various types of CHO depending upon their GI (Glycaemic Index) also have to be looked into in critical manner.
Use of low GI carbohydrates, which ensure slow and sustain energy release have to be properly scaled as unprocessed and whole grain CHO rich foods also tend to be high in fiber. Large amount of fiber also have potential to gastric upset. The low-GI foods may be ideal during a period just before (2-6 hours prior to actual event) competition. This may ‘top-up’ muscle and liver glycogen levels. During event proper, again dynamics can be different depending on kind of event an athlete is participating in, A wrong choice may result in gastric discomfort and can upset a player’s rhythm and attention focus.
Role of proper hydration cannot be over emphasized.With proper hydration and by maintaining electrolyte balance athlete can prolong the onset of fatigue. A sound understanding of types of fluid and rate at which to replace these fluids during prolonged competition helps in delaying fatigue and dehydration, thus allowing an athlete to perform unhindered.
Optimal nutrition should be met with proper consideration of personality types and individual preferences of athletes. Keeping positive psychological make-up can over-ride the ideal choices in order to get best performance. It has to be kept in mind that, a happy athlete is always going to perform better than a grumpier one. Hence, it is better to respect personal likes and dislikes of food type or preparations of an athlete.
In weeks to come, I will follow up on some practical tips and also be able to on elaborated on all these facets of optimal nutrition for elite athletes.