PV Sindhu is coming back home today, after winning badminton World Championships gold as the first Indian.
Stupendous talent, racquet skills, court craft, amazing footwork and comebacks and years of hard work aside, what makes PV Sindhu? Eight hours of practice and 400m runs a day, 600 pushups and 2400 abdominal exercises a week, of course. But badminton, the world’s fastest racket sport, is all about speed, often raising a player’s heart rate to its peak. To fuel such power, an elite shuttler’s mainstay is: food. More precisely, performance nutrition.
So what’s on Sindhu’s plate?
To begin with, fish curry and keema tonight, something Sindhu loves, says her mother P Vijaya. But that’s for a very special occasion. Sindhu rarely eats anything outside her diet chart that is drawn up a month in advance. In a recent Instagram post, she wrote: “I am on seefood diet. I see and I eat.”
Becoming a champion means you eat what you are told to. Her diet is planned to provide energy and endurance. Each meal is scrupulously measured out and monitored. And she has a blood test every two months, so that her nutrition and supplements can be tweaked, to take care of any deficiency.
What’s in, what’s out
Junk food and sweets are a no-no: there’s no room for empty calories and sugar causes inflammation, hampering recovery.
Speed being the mantra, carbohydrates are key. Carbohydrate metabolism provides faster release of energy than fat, although there is more energy in the latter. Carbohydrate is stored in the body as glycogen, especially muscles and can be quickly converted into glucose by the muscle cells. Sindhu, however, is a small eater and must-have nutrition supplements handy: high energy, protein-based or recovery inducing.
Balancing carbs and proteins
A typical day in her life starts with a protein-rich breakfast of eggs and milk. Lunch is usually green leafy vegetables and chicken that helps pack in the carbs. For dinner, she usually takes meat with vegetables and rice. For quick bites, fruits, nuts and juices.
Power of nutrition
Athletes need “recovery” time, when the repair process follows after the wear and tear of training. This is the time when nutrition is key—to heal and to perform at peak form in their next session. This is also the time when muscles are most receptive to nutrients and carbs to replenish muscle-glycogen.