Paralympic athletes: diet for success

Now that the Olympics are over, our nerves won’t get a chance to settle down before switching to the excitement of the Paralympic Games. Paralympics Ireland is sending a team of 49 athletes to the Games, and we hope they will emulate the success they had in Beijing when they took home three gold medals, one silver, and one bronze. Here in the Midlands we have a local interest with local hand cyclist, Mark Rohan from Ballinahown, competing.

No matter what level of sporting activity you are involved in, the food and fluids you eat and drink can have a huge impact on your level of performance. The difference between the winners and losers may be milliseconds or millimetres, so having the right ‘fuel’ in the engine is vital to give that slight advantage that can be the difference between medal glories and also-ran. Preparation is half the battle, and having a good diet doesn’t start on the day of the competition; the right diet must be part of the training routine.

Eating for fitness involves eating a balanced, healthy diet. Some of the main tips include:

Eat carbohydrate-rich foods such as cereals, bread, pasta, rice, noodles, and potatoes. These foods are the key to fuelling muscles for activity. Although muscles can store this fuel, this store does need to be topped up daily; with training, the muscles can store more fuel. But it is important to have carbohydrate-rich food before, during, and after exercise.

Pack in protein-rich foods such as lean meat, fish, milk, eggs, nuts, and pulses as these are important to repair and maintain muscle. When taken with carbohydrates, after training, it boosts how well the muscle refuels. There are many myths about protein and muscle development; however taking excessive amounts of protein can be unhealthy.

Keep hydrated: A common figure to remember is that for every 1 per cent drop in hydration your performance will be reduced by 5 per cent, so it’s a case of drinking whilst training, before, during, and after exercise or competition. Remember to train yourself to drink past your thirst.

All 4,200 athletes from 150 countries who compete in the London Paralympics have had to battle hard to get there and only the lucky few will take home a medal. Good luck to all our Irish competitors!

By Cara Cunningham, community dietitian. For more information on diet and nutrition, please contact the Community Nutrition and Dietetic Service, HSE Dublin-Mid Leinster at (044 ) 9353220 or email [email protected].


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