October 24, 2021

Mental Health Post

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Protein Rich Diets- Healthy Minds and Medals ahead!

  • The author of this article is Sreyashi Moitra, Dietician, Herbalife.  

Imagine a situation where an athlete is physically hurt on the field. The trainers, doctors and physiotherapists rush to ensure the athlete’s wellbeing and a nation holds its breath. Being an athlete is no easy task, while the body has to be primed to deliver optimum performance, the mind has to be conditioned to respond to high expectations in a publicised and highly competitive sporting environment.

As we wait for international sporting events to begin, players are going through rigorous training and practice. They’re under immense pressure to perform and, as the recent Tokyo Olympics showed us, mental health is in the spotlight in the sporting diaspora. While athletes have been provided with top-flight training facilities and resources for world-class physical training, the emphasis on their mental preparation has generally been neglected. Some might even say that before players like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka brought this issue centre-stage, mental health was always brushed under the carpet by a sporting world focused on physical excellence and on-field delivery.

Protein-rich diets – the right way to go.

Dr. David Heber, director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California, Los Angeles comments:

“What we eat not only fuels our brain cells but brings us great pleasure in life, which can support a stable mood. However, nutritional scientists have noted that the foods we eat can have much more complex effects on our mood and temperament”. [1]

It’s now widely recognised that a sportsperson’s on-field delivery is fueled by a complex interaction between mind and body, which involves neurotransmitters and neural pathways. A paper entitled: ‘Mental Health in Elite Athletes: International Olympic Committee Consensus Statement (2019)’,  published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has identified resilience, psychological flexibility and self-compassion as key characteristics that contribute to the making of an elite athlete. These values empower the sportsperson’s mind-body axis to respond to high levels of aggression and competition while ensuring a stronger rehabilitation and potential to persevere in the face of uncertainty and failure.

Mind over matter ultimately is built on nutrition. Protein is a critical building block of the body and creates a strong foundation for a mind-body mechanism that can offer protection and recovery from external aggressors and stress. While carbohydrates are the source of energy for the body’s many functions, with fat acting as the layer for the protection of organs and tissues, protein supports muscle and bone metabolism, ensures the maintenance and development of a normal nervous system, and helps to sustain muscle mass and physical performance.

Preparation for competitions starts away from arena and the performance in the finale is a sum total of nutrition as well as training. Nourishment via a holistic diet can impact the mindset and the physique and will a long way to help a sportsperson reach the pinnacle of sporting excellence with all their resources.