The Sunday Mail
The Art of Sport
WHEN I first heard the term “sports bar”, I thought it meant a place where sportspeople could go and get nutritional boosts from healthy snacks, different forms of healthy hydration and perhaps get a massage to soothe their aching muscles.
It did not take long for me to be corrected.
Soon enough, I knew that it was a place to go and watch sport while loading on other forms of liquid libation and eating completely different kinds of junk food.
Anecdotes aside, nutrition has become a major factor in sporting success.
Sporting organisations now frequently include dieticians and nutritionists in their key staff to get the best out of athletes.
According to online sources, “dietitians teach people and populations about nutrition, food and health”.
“They work in all the same types of settings as nutritionists, including schools, hospitals, long-term care facilities, government health facilities, research and sports.”
A significant difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian is that the latter can help diagnose and treat illnesses.
Clinical dietitians in hospitals, long-term care facilities, in- and out-patient clinics, and private practice reportedly often work with individuals experiencing eating disorders, substance abuse or medical conditions with symptoms that can be improved or managed with a more specific diet or meal plan.
Experts also say “dietitians often collaborate with mental health professionals to screen for eating disorders, and create unique nutrition plans for their clients”.
So, they essentially help them maintain healthy eating habits based on their medical needs.
Conversely, nutritionists, online sources add, are “people who typically work with individuals or populations to teach them more about general nutrition, food and health”.
Their focus is largely on food behaviour.
It is understood that this includes working with individuals to devise and implement meal plans that improve the individual or family’s nutrition.
Both sets of specialisations are vital for sporting success.
One of the major outcries whenever our national teams go out on international assignment is that our players are “too small”.
One only needs to look at the national football team over the years to see that this is true.
It was also painfully obvious when our national Under-20 rugby team went for the World Rugby Trophy tournament in Kenya earlier this year.
A common statement I have heard over the years is: “Well, sporting diets are expensive and most of the people cannot afford them.”
Sure, when one reads about sports stars going through a large number of egg whites, chicken, bran flakes and other foods, it can be daunting.
However, I believe, in a country that produces a lot of grains and prides itself in its agricultural pedigree, nutrition for athletes should not be an issue.
Sports nutrition presents an opportunity for organisations that are committed to tapping into the global market for heathy foods.
Nutrition in general is becoming a matter of concern for Zimbabweans as people look for ways of staying in shape and be healthier.
Locally, trying to get access to “healthy foods” can be difficult.
This is despite the fact that traditional whole grains present a favoured source of nutritious food.
A large number of naturally organic foods are globally referred to as “super foods”, yet here they grow untended in fields.
An interesting case in point is the horned melon, commonly known as “gaka” in Shona.
It has gained a reputation as a super food, yet, in many rural communities, it grows in fields.
Additionally, the local climate presents an opportunity for the cultivation of a diverse range of foods.
The health food business is booming, and Zimbabwe can take advantage of this.
There is a triple advantage to exploring this.
The nation can drastically improve nutrition options for sportspeople, thereby potentially improve performances across disciplines.
The national nutrition measurements can be enhanced in the process, reducing cases of illness caused by dietary deficiencies.
Finally, the agricultural business could tap into a local and global niche, thereby increasing earning potential.
Consumers worldwide are increasingly prioritising health and wellness in their dietary choices.
The market is now estimated at US$124 billion and is projected to almost double to US$232,46 billion by 2030.
This is no small change.
Imagine hitting three birds with one stone.
Bringing the health foods industry to the fore will take us a step closer to changing the image of a sports bar.
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