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  • Laxmi Pandrala

Sports Nutrition For High-Performance

In this expert’s column, Laxmi Pandrala, Founder and CEO, & LamiDNA, an Award-winning sports nutritionist and nutrigenomics expert, talks about the importance of hyper-personalized nutrition strategies that can help athletes reach their peak performance. Read on to find out how nutrition based on Genomics can play a critical role in enhancing the abilities of an athlete.

Every individual is different and so is their nutritional and medicinal requirement. With the competing nature of the sports, every microsecond matters a lot. Nowadays athletes are aiming for muscle growth, stamina, better recovery, better mental stability and ability to tackle performance pressure, alertness and reaction time, and more. Sports Nutrition plays a crucial role in the development of an athlete. With more intense fitness regimes and training programmes, the chances of injuries and vitamin deficiencies, slower recovery, and reduced performance due to fatigue are increasing. With technological advances in the field of genomics, we are changing our perspective to understand how we look at the human body today. A slight deviation of approximately 1% in genetic makeup makes every individual different from another. We have been observing the impact of multiple viruses on the human body varies from person to person, the reason being the genetic makeup of a particular individual against fighting a particular virus. As we advance more and more in genomics, multiple biomarkers reveal their impact on human behaviour, fitness abilities, injury risks and more.

Today, sports are highly tenuous and competitive. Nutrition based on Genomics can play an eminent role in improving the athletes’ abilities beyond our imagination. Unfortunately, the usage of genomics in Indian sports is meagre. Genes such as LCT (MCM6), IL-6, CP1, CYP1A2, ADORA2A, BCMO1, MTHFR, COL5A1, GDF5, COL1A1 and many more have major impacts on athletic performance. With a hyper-personalised approach, we can recommend diet, supplements, fitness, and rehabilitation strategies dependent on an individual athlete's genetic profile. Once we understand the genes working for us and working against us through genetic profiling, hyper-personalised nutrition strategies can help athletes to reach peak performance. Some of the key aspects of sports nutrition cover peak performance.

1) Nutrition and Genetic Vitamin Deficiencies

Athletes are prone to multiple vitamin deficiencies due to irregular food habits, skipping meals, excessive sweating and being genetically prone to low absorption of certain vitamins and minerals. Vit D and B12 are common deficiencies seen in athletes.

2) Nutrition and Calories, Macros & Micros

An athlete’s diet should be similar to that recommended for the general public, with energy intake divided into:

• 45% to 65% from carbohydrates

• 15% to 25% from protein

• 20% to 35% from fat

Athletes who exercise strenuously for more than 60 to 90 minutes every day may need to increase the amount of energy they consume, particularly from the carbohydrate sources such as cereals. Restricting carbohydrates in the diet can hamper a person’s ability to exercise due to a lack of glycogen stores in the body. Insufficient dietary protein intake can result in a loss of protein or muscle tissues, as the body will start to break down muscle tissues to meet its energy needs, and may increase the risk of infections and illness.

3) Nutrition and Supplementation

When an athlete’s food intake is balanced all the vitamin and mineral requirement is met, but when the requirement is not met additional sports supplements which can be in the form of pills, powder, liquids, and gels can definitely provide that extra edge. Also, which nutritional supplement impacts more or harms the body can be determined with genetic testing.

4) Nutrition and Recovery

After a strenuous training or workout, nutrition plays a major role in recovery and repair, therefore adequate intake of carbohydrates, protein and antioxidants is a must. Getting game ready for the next competition is the biggest challenge for many athletes, and it is imperative to provide balanced food and vitamins targeting faster recovery..

5) Nutrition and Diseases Prediction and Prevention

It has long been known that an individual’s nutritional status influences both their susceptibility to infection and their response to infection in terms of clinical outcome. With a balanced diet and supplement deficiency, monitoring and replenishing can be taken care of.

6) Nutrition - In Season and Off-Season

Nutrition in-season and off-season vary for different sports, but for all athletes, the recovery phase or rest phase is a time to reflect on the previous season and plan for the coming season. Some athletes may need to adjust their nutrition needs to maintain their current body composition. Others may wish to adjust their nutrition plan to change their body composition in the hope of achieving a potential performance advantage in the year ahead. Both are achievable if goals are set appropriately.

7) Nutrition - During the game

For athletes getting ready for a game, match or competition, eating a well-balanced meal beforehand is essential. The goal for the pre-event meal is to make sure they have enough fuel to get through the entire event. The pre-event meal should give them the energy to perform and can help prevent fatigue, decrease hunger pain and provide hydration.

Athletes need to make sure to eat their pre-game meal two to three hours before the event. If they have an 8 a.m event, then cut their calories in half and eat at around 6 a.m or 6:30 a.m, and have a sports drink 30 minutes before the start.

It’s important to avoid foods that are high in fat like fried foods, fast food, and foods made with butter or heavy cream. Also avoid foods high in fibre, as they will cause gas and bloating. These foods include broccoli, cauliflower, onions, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, beans or high-fibre cereals.

An absence of balance in a diet not only leads to poor performance but also can lead to injuries that are otherwise avoidable. With the right assessment of the body with pathology tests, anthropometry reading and Genetic tests, hyper-personalised sports nutrition plans can be crafted to perfection to enhance the performance of athletes.

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