Nutrition key for athletes

By John Tuerijama

Idon’t know why our sport administrators and extension the Namibia Sports Commission (NSC) and the directorate of sport in the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Services don’t see the importance of prioritizing nutritional supplements to our athletes during the preparatory stage of their international competitions.

It’s heart-breaking to learn that some of our very own athletic stars have to endure intensive training sessions without an ounce of any nutritional supplements. How do we expect our athletes to perform exceptionally well if we fail to provide them with the supplements they need during training?

I have learned with dismay that our very top notch athletes have had little or no nutrition during their training camps and perhaps that only affected those who had preparation on home soil, whilst some of their fellow sportsmen and women had foreign-based training in Angola, South Africa and in Europe.

I bet the situation was different for those who had training camps outside of our borders.

In one particular incident never been reported on, I have been told that at one stage a certain football official of the national senior team had to dig deep into his personal finances to buy nutrition for players because of lack of funds, but such individuals are barely recognized for the sacrifices made.

We select the best Namibian sportsmen and women to represent our country internationally, but do the sport administrators understand why nutrition forms part and parcel of the athletes’ training programme?

We know that government through the Ministry of Sport has given financial backing to various sport codes that are to represent the Land of the Brave abroad, but do the finances reach the athletes in time or does the money only cater for the team’s participation at the actual competitions?

It’s important for the NSC to enlist the services of a ‘sports nutrition professional’ who will liaise with the various sport associations and federations on the nutritional needs of athletes.

In the 21st century, with so much information readily available, we as a nation do not have any excuse whatsoever not to know about the importance of nutrition for athletes, especially during the training stages for upcoming sporting events.

A sport nutritionist typically advises athletes on nutritional regimes that will allow for optimal performance and must understand the effects that various foods have on the human body. From what I gathered, nutrition is of vital important for athletes in strength and endurance sports like running and swimming.   

To be successful in sports and fitness nutrition one must have extensive knowledge of the human body and dietary practices, and a passion for working with people on a personal, individual level.   

A key fact, especially for sport administrators to fully understand, is that a sport and fitness nutritionist is responsible for teaching athletes and fitness enthusiasts effective ways to improve their health, optimise their performance and manage their weight.

Nutritionists may advise individuals on dietary practices, exercise, and use of vitamins, minerals and supplements. Unlike a general nutritionist, sport and fitness nutritionists attempt to provide clients with nutrition plans that increase stamina and endurance and educate them on post-workout recovery needs. Therefore, sports and fitness nutritionists are trained to evaluate an athlete’s biochemical composition and physiology to create the most optimal nutritional programme.

Having said the above, I sincerely hope the upcoming Sports Expo will have speakers dealing effectively with the importance of sound and sufficient nutrition to athletes.