Don’t blindly follow heroes, says nutritionist Shiny

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As the most famous vegans in world sport, Virat Kohli and Novak Djokovic have the power to drive millions around the world onto their path.

But nutritionist Shiny Surendran warned athletes that blindly following their heroes, completely avoiding animal products including milk, may not be a good idea — especially if they don’t include adequate alternate nutrients in their diet.

In a series of webinars and discussions during the lockdown, the Chennai-based Shiny, who has completed a two-year course in sports nutrition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), stressed the importance of a healthy gut.

She highlighted the problem of food intolerance, where someone does everything right and still does not have optimum levels of energy, as was the case with Djokovic before he was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Advising every sports association to have a qualified nutritionist on board, Shiny said that tweaking food habits and customising it to each athlete was vital to high performance.

“Foods that grow in your city or nearby districts are loaded with nutrients. Eat what your ancestors ate and choose freshly prepared foods,” she said, quoting medical expert Dr. Mark Hyman.

Varying needs

“The requirement for nutrients varies throughout the year,” Shiny said, emphasising the need for different intake during off-season, pre-competition and injury-rehabilitation periods.

Talking about food allergies and intolerance, Shiny said that “once the diet is customised, there will be marked improvement in sharpness of mind, quickness in decision making, better recovery, improvement in muscle mass, etc.”

Leander Paes was impressed by Shiny’s suggestion of first having a cup of water to check the reality of a sudden feeling of hunger.

Pointing out how even simple food like fermented rice contained rich nutrients, Shiny said that it was important to know all the options and choose sensibly.

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