Did wrestler Sushil Kumar really bite his opponent’s ear in the 66-kg freestyle wrestling semifinal? When he pointed out, tongue-in-cheek, that he couldn’t possibly have done any biting as he was vegetarian, his fans were taken by surprise: their beefy silver medallist, a mere leaf eater? But they may have missed Sushil’s winning smile on an old PETA poster. Other signs of a meaty vegetarian sportstar clique might have passed them by too: legendary US athlete Carl Lewis has been vegan for over 20 years. Tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams turned vegan early this year. Closer to home, Javagal Srinath, once labelled the ‘world’s fastest vegetarian bowler’, has been one most of his life. Now Sushil and India’s other Olympian poster boy, wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, are new members. More sportsmen are also taking the veggie message public. Joining PETA are cricketers Anil Kumble and Murali Karthik.
Does this poke more holes in the theory of the great meat diet? Have we really made too much of meat’s protein benefits, especially for a sportsman? Champion boxer Mary Kom hooks for her dry meat and dry fish diet. “It’s not just about performing well. Meat is essential for my health and well-being.” Fellow pugilist Akhil Kumar underplays his ‘hardcore non-vegetarian’ identity, “It’s not like eating meat can win you a medal. Your performance depends on the overall system of training you follow. While I eat meat regularly, I take care to go on a meat-free diet while training for a tournament because vegetarian food keeps my energy levels up, and helps maintain my weight, which is essential for a good performance.” Akhil’s admission would seem to validate wellness expert Dr Shikha Sharma’s assertion: “It’s the biggest myth that vegetarian food is deficient in protein. In fact, a vegetarian diet is far better for those who play sports as it is low on acidity, which helps better concentration.”
Yogeshwar, who won India a bronze in tbe men’s 60kg freestyle wrestling category, says he turns to a largely liquid diet a couple of days before an important match. “When I travel for a tournament, I stick to a diet of juices. I may have a banana just before a match but nothing more,” he shares. On other days, protein and vitamin supplements add bulk to his daily vegetarian meals, which comprise mainly fruits, green leafy vegetables, almonds, wheat rotis and buffalo milk.
Just the kind of diet approved by Sushil’s coach Yashvir Singh. “The point is not as much whether meat is good for sportsmen or not, but making the best of what is readily available. Most wrestlers in north India are vegetarian, and many come from rural areas, where we have excellent access to high quality milk, ghee and butter. Plus, we are so accustomed to a meatless diet, given centuries of community tradition, that it seems unnecessary to switch to meat,” he explains.
In addition, the faddish use of supplements, especially amino acid ones in the case of vegetarians, has blurred the debate, he points out. Of course, a sportperson’s diet also depends on the sport he plays, the intake differing greatly from individual to individual. A sport as strenous as boxing, athletics, swimming, weight-lifting could well do with some animal protein for quick recovery after extreme muscle breakdown, he adds. Apart from supplements, there are vegetarian options like steamed sprouts, mushrooms and other superfoods that aid recovery just as nicely, counters Dr Sharma.
Experts are in agreement about it not being hard going for a vegetarian sportsman in India, with no dearth of healthy vegetarian options. “It’s when we travel abroad that a restrictive diet can become an issue,” feels former hockey captain and COO, Olympic Gold Quest, Viren Rasquinha. “In certain European countries, it can be tough to find pure vegetarian food, and you have to depend only on salad and fruits.” Javagal Srinath had to nibble on chicken sandwiches while on tour duty abroad, due to the unavailability of good vegetarian fare in his heyday. “But now, there is really no issue in being a vegetarian sportsperson,” he says.
Happily for the vegetarian brigade, the going does indeed look to be getting easier; this time around, at the London Olympics, coach Yashvir Singh was pleased with the spread at the Indian food counter. “We got everything we wanted: vegetable curries cooked Indian style, rotis, dry fruits, honey...you name it and it was there.” It looks as though the case for a meat-free sports diet just got meatier.
The article about the ‘advantages’ of a vegetarian sports diet over a non-veg one is deeply, absurdly flawed (Gobhi Pachhad, Aug 27)! China and the US (whose populations are hardcore non-veg) won more medals than us in every three hours at the Olympics! Then how can one claim that a vegetarian diet is healthier? And those US athletes who are vegans have been eating meat-based diets from their childhood till adolescence, which dictates how their bodies develop when they reach adulthood.
Subba Rao, Dallas
If significantly more vegetarians got medals than those eating meat, one would have understood. But a few medals by vegetarians ought not to have prompted this article.
Only soya has some veggie protein of substance, but is insufficient for sporting activity. Rajma/chhole etc have proteins, but are of a poorer quality than animal proteins. So, please stop spreading this misinformation about veg-only diets.
Pankaj Hedaoo, Kuala Lumpur
Vegetarian athletes get the necessary protein these days from eggs, protein powders and cheese, none of which come from greens. However, eating spicy, overcooked food (veg or non-veg) makes one lethargic and dull. For alertness, one needs simple, non-spicy food. In this, every Indian is at a disadvantage.
Bharat Paul, San Francisco
To all those who consider vegetarian is Super Food....
1) Cow/ Buffalo Milk does not grow on trees. It is an animal product and Animal Protein. All other milk products, paneer, cheese et el are ANIMAL Proudcts and non-Veg.
2) Whey Protein which is basically protein shake is derived from Milk - animal protein.
3) Only Soya protein is veg protein but is INSUFFICIENT for sports activity. Rajma/Chole/etc have proteins but are of a poorer quality than animal proteins (which are required for muscle building as well as repair of muscles, joints, tissues and ligaments).
So stop spreading this non-sense of veg only diets. Veg Only diets are BEST for people with no physical activity. If you are sweating head to toe due to physical labour, you need to be non-veg...
Most of Indian labourers are veg and look at their Medal Winning Phsyiques....Now let the trolls spew venom...
What a flawed article.
Our country got a paltry four medals in total(and no Gold) , China and USA (hardcore non-veg countries) won those many medals in an Hour!! , how can one claim that veg diet is better or healthier or superior in the context of sports?
Those US athletes who are now vegans have been eating meat diets from their childhood and adolescent days, which greatly dictates how their body's develop when they reach adulthood.
Just because two of the medal winning athletes were vegetarian debating the superiority of veg vs non-veg diet lacks beef, considering their conquerors (who won gold), were all carnivores.
If India can attribute its olympic "success" to veggie diet, then China also can attribute all its success to their, frog, dog, critters rich diet.
Phelps recently clarified that his much talked about gluttonous diet is a myth.
Wrestlers are not lean, but most Haryanvi's are. The wrestlers from Haryana look a bit different. The gentleman above, has a soft appearance, on his face. There are some ladies in Haryana who have taken to wrestling too. This is unusual, very unusual.
It is a bit silly to say that just because one sportsman got a medal and he turned out to be a veggie tht it does not matter if meat is needed. That is not how stats are worked. If significantly more veggies get medals than those taking meat than one could argue diet has no role in deciding who gets medals.But one stray veggie should not have prompted this article. It is said humans got the advantage in evolution due to the protein diet.
We should not forget we were trampled and ruled for more than 1000 years because we were a proud ved eating nation.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT