Wannabe Michael Phelps and Usain Bolts of Ranchi can, finally, dream of uncompromised nutrition if not exactly extreme Olympic diet.
Starting Thursday, the Sports Authority of India’s training centre at Morabadi will serve non-vegetarian meals seven days a week to its 100-odd cadets across various disciplines like swimming, athletics, archery, boxing and volleyball so that the budding sportspersons do not lag behind in their performances because of calorie crunch.
For those who are pure vegetarians, paneer is being served instead of egg, chicken or fish. Besides breakfast, lunch and dinner, all the athletes are also being given evening refreshments.
“Despite growing inflation and rising LPG prices, we recently managed to hire a caterer through an open tender who has agreed to our requirements. First day, first show was good with rice, dal, roti, vegetables, fish, mutton, fruits and dessert for lunch and dinner. We hope the agency does its work sincerely so that our players are never deprived of proper nutrition,” said SAI’s Ranchi in-charge S.K. Verma.
Calorie intake for each cadet depends on the sports discipline they have enrolled in. For instance, boxers, swimmers and sprinters here will need anywhere between 6,000 and 6,500 calories (the grapevine says Olympic goldfish Phelps had a gargantuan appetite for 12,000 calories a day when he was training for the 2008 Beijing Games).
On the other hand, volleyball players need almost half in terms of calories (2,500-3,000), while archers — who are required to use more concentration than physical strength to score a bullseye — can do with 2,000 calories.
“More physical activities mean more calories are burnt. Hence, sports disciplines like running, swimming, boxing, et al call for bigger platter compared to the likes of volleyball and archery. But, what is most important is that no player goes to training empty stomach because that hampers their body’s adaptation to strenuous exercises,” Verma explained.
The Union government has earmarked Rs 125 per head for daily meals across all SAI centres in India. A section of sports officials, however, said that the amount was peanuts in times of inflation.
SAI’s eastern India director S. Bhatnagar couldn’t disagree. He said he was pursuing the matter with the Centre. “I have recently written a letter to the Union sports ministry, asking it to increase the allocation to Rs 200 per head,” he said from Calcutta.
Verma said despite spiralling inflation, rationing of LPG cylinders and inadequate central allocation, they were trying their best to serve quality food to players at all SAI centres in the country.
“But, this is the first time non-vegetarian meals are being dished out seven days a week,” he added.
While evening refreshment is also a first, the portions have increased too.
“Now, breakfast includes two eggs, two bananas (or any other fruit), six slices of bread, 25gm butter, 25gm jam and a 300ml glass of milk with sugar unlike earlier. Fish for lunch will be served at least four days a week, while mutton or chicken will be on dinner menu thrice a week. Vegetables may be replaced with spinach sometimes,” a source at the centre in Ranchi said.
Vegetables, mutton or chicken, athlete Rajat Munda isn’t complaining. “As long as the food is adequate and healthy, we are good to go. But, since I am a diehard non-vegetarian, I am indeed happy to see the new menu,” he added.