Overview of Indian Vegetarian Wrestlers Diet

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Besides milk, there is a special place for ghee among wrestlers as they consume up to one glass of it a day.

Kolkata: “Ji, apna to din doodh se suru hota hai, doodh pe hi khatam hota hai (My day starts with milk and ends with milk),” wrestler Mohit Grewal says when asked what the most essential part of his diet is.

For a Commonwealth Games bronze medalist, who is also a heavyweight wrestler, the eating habit of two liters of milk a day will come as no surprise. Chatrasaal – the country’s leading wrestling academy in Delhi and which has hosted stars from Sushil Kumar and Ravi Kumar Dahiya among others – has raised its wrestlers as vegetarians with milk and dairy products essential for their growth.

Another look at the dietary needs of almost all elite wrestlers reveals that dairy products take up a large portion of their meals. In fact, the affinity of wrestlers – mainly from the belts of northern India – for milk is deep-rooted as it is traditionally part of their meal and starts as young as eight to nine years old.

“Before advancing from zone wrestling to elite level, a wrestler’s staple diet consists of plenty of milk,” says sports nutritionist Aradhana Sharma. First post. “It’s like liters of milk every day, which is a very good source of energy for them. Milk is a complete meal in itself because it contains proteins, carbohydrates and minerals; everything a wrestler needs to generate energy for heavy contact sport. Even in ancient times, wrestlers typically relied on plenty of milk and curds among other dietary habits.

For someone who worked eight years with over 100 Indian wrestlers at the Army Sports Institute in Pune, Aradhana was able to take a close look at their eating habits, which paid close attention to the quality of the milk they they consume.

“Coming from rural areas, the wrestlers grew up consuming the best quality milk from the right breed of cows. And to make sure they get the same at camp, they wouldn’t rely on the canteen to provide it and would find the milk vendor nearby,” says Aradhana, who is currently the Chief Nutritionist at the Sports Directorate. . , Madhya Pradesh.

Not just milk, but other dairy products in bread, ghee (cottage cheese and clarified butter), as well as dried fruits and legumes, are also traditionally added to the regular diet of both sexes to build muscle for intense contact sport.

“A young wrestler normally starts his day by eating fruit before starting his training in the morning,” says coach Mandeep, who coached Rio Olympic medalist Sakshi Malik. “As a coach, I usually guide them on what to eat, but wrestlers know what to eat and what to avoid. masala in food, sugar and anything fried is a strict no. Most of my wrestlers (at his training academy in Rohtak) are vegetarians and to build muscle they consume milk without sugar, ghee, paneeralmonds and almond juice, soya, kale (black chickpeas) and other legumes in their breakfast after the morning workout. »

Besides milk, there is a special place for ghee among wrestlers as they consume up to one glass of it a day.

Ghi always goes into our food and we often have a glass of it a day,” says CWG gold medalist Naveen. “We often eat this brown bread Halva and it contains a lot of ghee. For those who are vegetarians, ghee is a good source of protein for them.

Are all wrestlers vegetarians?

Expert Aradhna reveals that most of them before joining the camp are vegetarians, but many include egg whites in their diet while some turn to eating meat for extra protein needs once they started the international fight. For some though, eating meat could be a cheat day.

“I mainly rely on a vegetarian diet, but sometimes I eat meat if I feel like it,” says wrestler Mohit. “It’s a personal choice and also in some cases a requirement of a wrestler. As I am a heavyweight wrestler (125 kg), I need a lot of protein, so I consume up to four to five egg whites per day. But there are wrestlers in a camp, who don’t even eat eggs because they are sudh sakahari (vegetarians).

One of the vegetarian wrestlers is CWG bronze medalist Pooja Gehlot, whose attacking play has captured many hearts in Birmingham.

Mere se nahi ho pata hai non-veg khana (I can’t eat non-vegetarian food),” says Pooja. “Even during training camps and competitions abroad, I am prepared to sleep on an empty stomach but I will not settle for anything non-vegetarian as I come from a strictly vegetarian family. breadsoy and other vegetarian foods give me all the protein I need.

Too much of nothing is good

However, the high consumption of milk and dairy products has long term consequences as a balance in a wrestler’s diet is lacking.

“After analyzing data from over 100 wrestlers during my time at ASI, the overconsumption of dairy products and almonds for protein means that some of the micronutrients are missing because they are not consuming vegetables,” says Aradhna. “Generally, if you ask them what you ate at sabzi they will say ‘Paneer ka sabzi’. There is nothing against drinking milk, even ghee in moderation is not a problem, and as the result shows, it works for our wrestlers. But too much of anything is not good and for wrestlers one of the many problems is the lack of a balanced diet.

The adverse effects of imbalance become apparent when a wrestler retires or goes through a prolonged period of injury.

“Until they do intensive training and competitions, all the calories are burned, but when they give up the sport and do not change their eating habits, the impact has been seen in their blood counts. Their triglyceride and cholesterol levels begin to rise. Active wrestlers out of action due to injury also face similar issues as they gain weight rapidly. In some cases, we have also observed stress-related eating disorders in injured wrestlers, as eating often gives them comfort,” says Aradhna.

The Wrestling Federation of India also brought the expert nutritionist to their respective men’s and women’s camps ahead of the Tokyo Olympics last year. However, asking a wrestler to ditch their usual eating habits for a balanced diet by an expert is still a task.

“I don’t always find it comfortable following the nutritionist to camp. I make my own arrangement for outside food as needed. I have a wrestler’s body, I don’t think a non-wrestler will always understand what a wrestler needs,” Mohit says.

Sports nutritionist Aradhna also said it’s not always easy to explain to wrestlers what would be a more balanced diet for their growth, but the approach needs to be something that makes more sense to wrestlers.

“It’s important to explain to them in their own language. The jargons like carb level and calorie intake won’t make much sense to them, it’s something my team and I had to deal with at ASI and it was too hard to break their old ways. But earlier, many understood the importance and its positive results and followed it,” says Aradhana.

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