Paralympic competitions are divided into several different categories to account for the wide range of disabilities amongst Paralympic athletes. Physical impairments that are recognized can range from the loss of a limb to an intellectual disability. Each physical impairment brings with it unique nutrition considerations that must be taken into account throughout the athletes training calendar. We’d need an extensive series of articles (or maybe even a textbook!) to account for each physical impairment, but here we’ll try and provide some general guidelines for the Paralympic athlete, specifically around those key hours before an event or competition.
Whereas there may be unique nutritional factors to consider throughout a Paralympic athlete’s training season, in the hours before an event the fuelling strategies for these athletes are no different to that of any other athlete. As we do with all our clients, it’s best to experiment with and practice pre-event nutrition while training, so you can find out what works best for you and avoid any adverse effects during competition.
Sufficient muscle fuel (carbohydrate) is a key performance factor. The specific amount of carbohydrate depends on the athlete and the event, but as a general rule consumption of a carbohydrate rich meal (about 100-120g) 3-4 hours before an event will help enhance performance. If you’re an endurance athlete it’s prudent to keep this meal and the meals in the days prior lower in fibre to help reduce stomach discomfort during your event. This might be particularly important for the wheelchair athlete, who may be required to maintain an aggressive position that puts strain on the stomach.
Here’s an “athlete’s take” on a traditional Persian recipe for a Date & Rice Omelette. Serve with some fruit juice or whole grain bread and you’ll be reaching the optimal 100-120g of carbohydrate required. You should always consult with a qualified nutritionist to dial in your exact macronutrient requirements for your body type and event.
489 calories | 80g carbohydrate | 17g protein | 14g fat
- ½ cup of cooked basmati rice
- 50g pitted dates (mejdool or Iranian)
- 2 medium eggs
- A few pinches of cinnamon (to taste)
- A pinch of ground ginger
- A pinch of seas salt
- ¼ cup of water
- ¼ cup semi-skimmed milk
- 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp. honey
- Place the dates, cinnamon, ground ginger and water in a small pan.
- Stir, put a lid on the pan, and cook on low for about 5 minutes, or until dates soften.
- While the dates are cooking, beat the eggs and milk with a pinch of salt.
- Add butter to a frying pan on low heat.
- Add the dates and rice, fry for 2 minutes.
- Space the dates and rice out evenly, then pour in the eggs.
- Cook until the omelette is almost set and then fold in half and lightly press down.
- Slide onto a plate, sprinkle with cinnamon, drizzle with honey, and enjoy!
Bonus tip: Depending on the event, nutrition in the hour before your start can also help boost your performance. Endurance athletes may benefit from taking on a little more carbohydrate in this period, and caffeine can also be considered by most athletes as a performance aid. Something high on the GI scale, like a gel, 15 minutes prior to start is a good place to start. To practice with caffeine, begin with about 3mg per kg of body weight within 30 minutes of your next training session. For a 60kg athlete that would be about 180mg of caffeine, which (depending on the brand) is the equivalent to a 12 oz. Americano.
About the author: Kasra is a professional Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) part of Will Girling’s team. He is currently working on his MSc at Middlesex University in Applied Sport & Exercise Nutrition, enjoys road cycling, and is a fan of combat sports. By drawing from his father’s Persian upbringing Kasra enjoys transforming traditional Iranian dishes and flavours into fuel for athletes! Follow Kasra on Instagram for more insights, posts, recipes & updates.