Healthy Habits and Nutrition for Athletes by Italian Athlete, Giuseppe Leonardi
When I was in my junior year in secondary school, I heard the story about how the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena had started training to play tennis at the age of 3. I was 12 then, and someone told me that it wasn't too late to start training if I wanted to. I started to train but quickly lost interest. I felt I had no natural ability for sports.
So, for the longest time, I thought the only thing differentiating Tennis superstar, Serena Williams, and I was a natural inborn ability for sports and hard work to harness that talent. I felt that all I would have needed to do was love the game and then train and practice all day to make it into a tennis league.
Haven grown up and interacted with several athletes, I see now that I was a bit wrong. Being an athlete is much more than ability and hard work. There seem to be other components other than the training and practice, which come into play to result in optimum performance.
Athletes push their bodies to the limit due to the enormous stress and physically demanding activities. From practice to workouts to the main sporting events or games, it's a lot of push for the human body. Sports enthusiasts and fans demand a lot from athletes without knowing the amount of work that has to be put into achieving optimum performance by athletes.
Some people think it’s all about going to the gym and practicing. However, according to professional athletes, optimum performance in sport is much more than just gym workouts; their whole lifestyle has to be tailored to keeping the body in top and healthy shape. This they achieve by taking care of every aspect of their life from the diet, to exercise, to sleep, and leisure.
I spoke to Italian track and field athlete Giuseppe Leonardi about his routines and got an insight into the habits that separate an athlete from the normal non-sports person.
Twenty-four years old Leonardi, who started sports at the young age of 10, is a well-known international sportsman from Italy. The 4 × 400 meters relay silver medalist at the European junior championships in Eskilstuna 2015. He was present in Yokohama last year for the world relay, and his team qualified for the Olympic Games of 2021.
Here are a few things the Italian sprinter had to say about the routine of athletes: diet, discipline, hydration, and sleep.
1. Healthy Diet and Nutrition
According to Leonardi, as an athlete, you should not depend majorly on junk food, and protein shakes because your diet and habit play a huge factor in your athletic performance. What you eat especially matters to your health, performance, and longevity in sports, and it is essential to have a discipline in healthy habits.
2. Healthy Habits Discipline
In addition to diet and nutrition, having the knowledge and discipline to live a healthy life by sticking to healthy habits is crucial to help athletes stay in tip-top shape and on top of their game. Due to sports' strenuous activity, athletes need to consume more calories than the average non-sporty person—nutritionists' advice from between 2000-5000 calories per day.
The hectic training and practice of athletes can cause damage in the body, but healthy nutrition and routine help the body recover quickly.
Diets and healthy habits also influence hormones, which are crucial to athletic performance. A poor diet and poor discipline could result in hormone deficiencies. So, to athletes, healthy food is medicine! And it would be best if you were disciplined about it.
It doesn't matter if you are a serious, pro, budding, or young athlete, hydration is vital for optimum performance. Good hydration means getting the proper amount of liquid, especially water before, during, and after training or practice, exercise, and performances.
Lots of athletes have been hospitalized after sporting events due to dehydration. Staying hydrated is vital in sports because water regulates your body temperature and reduces exertion. It also helps transport energy-giving nutrients, lubricates your joints, and keeps you healthy.
Dehydration could cause your body to perform at a low level; you get tired and dizzy quickly, get muscle cramps, and your body might even shut down.
Proper and adequate fluid intake and hydration help for optimum performance in sports.
Sporting authorities and professionals even state liquid intake recommendations to help athletes.
From training to diet, athletes have a lot of routines to adhere to in other to achieve their goals and keep a healthy body. However, some athletes ignore the important routine of getting enough sleep.
Getting enough sleep is crucial for everyone to function properly in every aspect of their life, like development, learning, physical and mental health, and overall performance. The effects of lack or inadequate sleep can also vibe all-encompassing in every aspect of our life.
For athletes, getting enough sleep is important for optimum athletic performance. It would improve speed, reflex, accuracy, and reaction time in athletes, while lack or inadequate sleep could result in reduced performance, reflex, cognitive, and decision-making ability.
According to Leonardi, while normal people would need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, athletes in training, need a little more just like they need more calories than most people. Jim Thornton, president of the National Athletic Trainers' Association, reiterates this when he said that athletes should sleep about an hour extra; this they can do by sleeping earlier or taking naps during the day.
Even Doctors and healthcare specialists that work with Olympic athletes and other professional sportsmen and women have said that sleep is vital for peak physical and cognitive performance, muscle tissue repairs, and increased stamina levels.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Loretta Osakwe Awosika