In a talk with Sayali Naik, a sports nutritionist who has been catering elite sportspersons talks to Sportz Business and share her insight over the contemporary Indian sports nutrition market as well as how important to have thoughtful eating.
Q Kindly share your experience in the field of sports nutrition?
I have been working as a Sports Nutritionist (M.Sc.) with a lot of Bollywood celebrities, models, young and professional athletes like Ranji, IPL, Indian cricketers, powerlifters, basketball and across various sports disciplines. And also with people with various medical and other health conditions like weight loss/ gain, diabetes, thyroid, etc. It’s been a good experience of changing people’s mindsets to good in terms of health and food. Due to the positive results and responses of the work from the clients & other elites in the field, the motivation to work in the health and sports field is even more today. And in means of sharing knowledge and validating my work, I recently started a venture-Bullseye Nutrition.
Q An anecdote sharing your venture into this field?
Being a sports fanatic I was always curious to know what goes into making such physiques and powerful sportspersons on screen. It is because of this hunger to work, I got to intern with Indian Navy athletes at the Indian Navy and then worked with an organization with a lot of Bollywood celebrities, models, Sports and fitness enthusiasts, etc.
The first sportsperson I started working on was Hritvika Sardesai (Indian-World powerlifting medalist) and then with first-class, Ranji, IPL cricket players as cricket being my favorite sport.
Q What interests you most about health and sports nutrition?
Due to my curiosity in health food, sports & its science, I decided to take up a degree of Master’s in Sports Nutrition. What interests rather inspires me more about it is to see the practical positive benefits of eating right has on our health and how we can achieve more in life when health is right. Apart from being a fan of some sportsperson’s skills on field, I am a much bigger fan of their grit, discipline and the consistency they show outside the field in terms of eating, training and practicing right. This is something I find is more inspiring to work in this field.
Q Tell our audiences about with whom have you worked in the field of sports and fitness till the date?
I have worked with many Bollywood models, actors, sports and fitness enthusiasts. I work with a lot of professional Indian athletes, amateur players, across sports disciplines like Basketball, Rowing, Powerlifting, etc. and majorly with a lot of first-class, IPL players and academies. Some names would be Amit Trivedi (Bollywood singer), Zoya Afroz (Miss India/ Actor), Shrey Mittal (Actor), etc. and in sports Hrithvika Sardesai (Powerlifting World medalist), Kritika Khanna (Indian Para Rower), Cricketers like Tushar Deshpande, Surya Kumar Yadav, Pravin Tambe, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Sujit Nayak, etc.
Q What are the specific nutrition tips you provide to your clients?
I primarily work on explaining the importance of training their mind to eat right and how it impacts their mood, health and performance energy. Some general tips to all are:
a. Including a balanced diet comprising of all the food groups.
b. When, how much and how you eat is important (which should be Customized)
c. Include seasonal ingredients in the meals.
d. Skipping meals and eating less is not advisable.
e. Limit the intake of sugary, oily, fatty foods in the diet.
Q What are the basic roles of a sports nutritionist if he or she is working with an organization?
The basic roles of the nutritionist would be to coach the athletes on food and supplement’s effects on performance levels and follow up with diet plan according to their training & game demands, eating habits, lifestyle, etc.
Q What is your personal take over this unprecedented trend of Veganism?
The nutrition trends are quite volatile and very much biased sometimes. Not that Vegan diets are not beneficial for the sportsperson or any general population but also it is not the only thing that is beneficial. A vegan and a vegetarian diet consists a lot of carbohydrates and hence gives the athlete a good energy levels. The timing, qualities and quantities of food should be well planned to achieve good muscle recovery, prevent injuries and fatigue. The shift to Vegan diet creates nutrient deficiencies in the bodyand hence to clear it out, one should seek a nutritionist advice for food and supplement guidance.
Q What do people look for in a sports nutritionist?
I think the first they look is for their knowledge, experiences and degree holder of sports nutrition from a reputed university and someone with food and supplement literacy who can guide them timely (on and off season) or according to their goals.
Q Is there any difference between sports nutritionist when compared to a general nutritionist?
A Sports nutritionist will design plans that specifically work on Sports specific energy demands, recovery, injury prevention, medical condition, supplement prescription, etc. A general nutritionist on the other hand, might only work on how to maintain their weight or lose weight and might not work on other aspects.
Q Do you have any advice for students interested to pursue sports nutrition as in future career?
Firstly, one should be sure about their interest and be passionate about Sports and to upgrade its nutrition science and then can seek for a good degree certification in it.
Q How has sports nutrition awareness changed since you started working in the field?
Few years ago, sports nutrition was still a field everyone thought important, just not as important to add value. After working with some elite athletes I now believe that they might have the skills to perform there on field but not the quality fuel-Food & supplements! How much does one know about sports nutrition? What, how and when you eat, can affect your performance in games and helps you get that extra performance edge. Due to growing awareness of eating right by the elite athletes, it has inspired athletes so the trends are changing. And I m glad I am able to contribute for the same.
Q What do you suggest as in diet for those who can’t hit the gym on regular basis but still want to be fit?
I would advise everyone to take up a small physical activity like walking, running, etc or playing any kind of sport for that matter. But if they can’t afford any time for this then they should focus on eating healthy and avoid unhealthy food items. The food quality, quantity and timing of the food intake should be monitored which would differ from person to person which shall be under a nutritionist’s advice.
Q And something fun: What is your favorite healthy snack?
My favorite healthy snack in winters is a homemade Til-Gud Laddoo (Sesame-jaggery balls)-a good blend of all the nutrients packed in one.