Once a high-level competitive swimmer, Mihira A R Khopkar has changed lanes to sports nutrition, and her experience has resulted in a book — Faster, Stronger, Higher.
Khopkar, a former national gold medallist swimmer, believes athletes must embrace the values of a comprehensive sports science support system.
The 175-page book dives into science-backed studies in nutrition for track and field athletes, focusing on nutrition research strategies and practical procedures required for performance improvement.
The first part accentuates the basic principles of nutrition for an athlete, which include the best ways to fuel the body for performance with carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals, supplements and hydration.
With the daily macronutrient requirement, including nutrient timing and meal guide, a general framework for an athlete’s meal plan is mentioned. Macronutrient requirements are determined by body weight and vary according to training phases.
For pre-training meals, Khopkar suggests the focus should be to promote good quality usage of energy. For the training phase, the emphasis is on fluids to help in hydration and give the body necessary carbohydrates and electrolytes. During the post-training meal, the emphasis should be on recovery, re-rejuvenating and rehydration.
The second section simplifies periodised nutrition, which aims to improve the outcome of the training goal for a specific phase. In this case, the micro-cycle-based nutrition meal plan is divided into four phases: general preparation, specific preparation, pre-competition and competition phase for all athletic disciplines.
Keeping an athlete’s condition for a specific day in mind, the third section of the book discusses nutrition guidelines for special conditions. This includes nutrition that should be taken on event day; situations where body composition is to be modified; cases of low energy availability and disordered eating; specific to female and growing athletes; nutrition in special environments, and nutrition for injury prevention and treatment.
The book includes key takeaways for each sub-division for athletes to be surefooted about diet and meal plans.
Having pursued M Sc in Sports Nutrition and worked in the field for the last six years, three of those in the track and field discipline, Khopkar has worked with top athletes across various disciplines such as Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra, Hima Das and Jinson Johnson. She is currently associated with Sir H. N. Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai as the lead sports nutritionist.
Neeraj has pitched in for the book with his observations about working with Khopkar. “I first interacted with Mihira during my brief rehab at Sir H. N. Reliance Foundation Hospital. I really appreciated the way my nutrient needs were taken care of during that time, especially that Mihira had organised a daily lunch meal tailored to my requirements at the hospital. Our interactions grew during the national camp; I and all other athletes found huge benefit in Mihira’s advice on nutrition and supplement plan she provided.”