Health nutrition and wellness is, quite rightly the number one priority for so many parents at BISS Puxi. However, in the busy and hectic life in Shanghai we can easily start to feel tired and run down. In this week’s blog, Olympic Gold medalist Marlon Devonish explores E for Energy and shares his perspective on nutrition, diets and what Chinese treats he likes to eat when eating out in Shanghai.
As an elite athlete you can become obsessive about nutrition, recovery and ensuring you create the right nutritional balance so you hit peak energy levels at competition time. As I developed and maximised my gross gains and started honing in on the marginal gains, I found my energy levels were influenced not just by what I ate, but by the people I surrounded myself with, positive energy together with like minded people amplified the energy of the group.
Sports recovery is as important as the practice and competition. If you are not diligent in maximising your recovery the risk of poor performance and injury are high and you will never reach your potential. So rest, recovery and nutrition were key parts of my daily routine.
Each training day would start with a lot of preparation and foresight to be able to maintain the high levels of intensity I would undergo throughout the day. I would have to prepare several specially designed drinks which target potential deficiencies when focusing on nutrition of the body. First, I would put the following into a blender: 2 scoops of protein powder, 1 banana, fresh spinach, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, ground flaxseeds, and water to reduce gloopy consistency of the drink. Secondly, I would prepare a branch chain amino acid (BCAA) drink. Which are commonly called the building blocks of proteins. This really was your Formula One fuel for athletes but it tasted awful and had a truly pungent smell that, despite several sticks of chewing gum, just would not go away! Thirdly, and very importantly re-hydration drink which would live by my side.
In the winter there were times when my training intensity increased and so did the demands on my body. I would be constantly reaching for my super shake, refueling as soon as I have finished my sessions with my whole body screaming for energy. Both the BCAA and rehydration drink, I would drink throughout the day. This concoction of drinks with various meals throughout the day, would help my body replenish lost nutrients required for my exertions during training and/or competition. It would help reduce inflammation and of course maintain my hydration.
I am well aware this is an extreme regime to abide by, to everyday people interested in their nutrition. I recommend people to find your own healthy shake and get into the routine of regular ‘snacking’ on something healthy. It certainly works for me, and at worse, if nothing is available I would always keep hydrated.
As a sportsperson carrying unnecessary weight, fat is a sign of poor preparation. Hence the saying from my coach “fat don't fly!” Having said this all the micronutrients the body needs, including fats are very important generally and especially in terms of high-performance.
For example, studies have shown that individuals consuming fewer than 20% of their calories from dietary fat have decreased levels of Testosterone. This is mainly due to the fact that cholesterol is the primary raw material required to build Testosterone. If dietary cholesterol is too low, then Testosterone levels will decline. Like testosterone, hormones of the body requires fat to be developed by the body. Furthermore, some vitamins require fat in order to dissolve into your bloodstream and provide nutrients. The key thing to remember is there are both good and bad fats.
Contain good fats; avocados, flaxseeds, nuts and seeds, Olive oil, fatty fish - salmon, omega-3 fatty acids to name a few.
Contain bad fats; fried foods - french fries, doughnuts, deep-fried fast foods, margarine, cookies, cakes, pastries to name a few.
I take an interest in eating healthy food in a way that anyone with a busy schedule could do. The difference with an elite performer is the discipline of the eating and exercising routine that you get into but this can be applied to sportspeople, to business and to students. There is no secret here. Getting into a structured routine of eating great, healthy food eaten at regular intervals will refuel your body and mind and leave you packed full of energy.
Everyone enjoys a treat and I am no different but there is a host of tasty healthy food that can be part of a daily diet. Before competition my wife would make a personal favourite we called ‘spicy chicken rice’ that satisfied my body’s needs and put a smile on my face. Sadly, she won’t share the secret recipe for the Devonish spicy chicken rice with me so that will have to stay in the family for now!
Another key element of peak performance in energy is choosing carefully who you hang out with. I often trained with other athletes looking for peak performance. In 2008, I traveled to the United States and trained with a group of elite US athletes including Tyson Gay, Veronica Campbell and Aileen Bailey to name a few.
We were all at a good level and pushing yourselves to be the best that we can be. The competitions was tough but fun. The work was intense but the fun and the banter was outstanding. I had never worked so hard and never felt so energized as an athlete.
I learnt so much from the team in terms of how they pushed themselves and how they were as diligent in their recovery as they were in their training. I notices that, after some seriously intense repetitions, they would be feeling fine and I would be feeling slightly for one of a better word, battered! It was all about how they took on more liquids and nutrients straight after the work out. They really took the training and recovery to the next level.
I am grateful to my training partners for teaching me some tips on nutrition but more so on how surrounding yourself with great people who know when to push hard to reach their potential and also know when to relax and have huge fun. When I was with my elite training team, I have never felt so energized. It was hard. It was fun. It was peak performance.
When I teach business people and student’s we also talk about how you can generate and feed energy fro others. At BISS Puxi, we encourage peer group learning. This is where students coach each other and help each other grow to be elite performers in sports, performing arts or academically. This is a powerful way to develop coaching skills, share knowledge and create a positive learning culture within the school. With everyone committed to helping each other, you can imagine the positive energy that creates. I try with the help our sports education specialists at the school, with students and parents to emulate, in a small way what we created in 2008 with my friends in the US.
Through sport, I have been lucky enough to travel widely. During the Beijing Olympics of course there was the temptation of the delights of Chinese food, Beijing duck, hotpot and all the wonders of living and eating in China. As a professional athlete, you just have to resist it. Elite performance especially before a race means you stick to your routine and you do not take any risks with a spicy hotpot!
I still take my routine and wellness seriously, as I understand my position as an elite performance coach and a role model for so many children at BISS Puxi but I have to admit I can get out and spoil myself a little bit more these days.
I love the wide range of foods available in China. I enjoyed a fantastic dinner over the weekend with a variety of Chinese Sichuan dishes. I had the spicy green beans to start, followed by caramel and black pepper beef, and surprisingly for me stir fry bacon and cauliflower which I have to say was amazing. So much temptation! With so much to try in China it’s easy to get carried away so I make sure I enjoy the delicious food but always in moderation.
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