It’s all been said before — eat plenty of green vegetables, drink lots of water, less of oil and more of fresh fruits… But advice from Heather Livingstone is worth its weight in, well, kilos.
The Californian, with 18 years of experience as a nutritionist, has had more than her share of wisdom as an adviser to the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the US and Canada, the Asian Basketball Federation and the Federation Internationale Basketball Association (FIBA). She was recently in town to promote Herbalife products.
Livingstone works with the national teams in the Netherlands in cycling, Australia in swimming and volleyball, Canada in basketball and gymnastics and in the US, with 27 of the 29 NBA teams and the National Hockey League (NHL). Besides this, the former athlete is also on the US Olympic Committee. Although asking her to drop names is tougher than going on a diet, the avid golfer, swimmer and cyclist admits to working with some of the biggest names in the sports business.
So, why is nutrition so important in a sports person’s diet' Simply because it improves performance “drastically”. However, while a proper diet is “an integral part of a sports person’s training”, Livingstone stresses that “all too often, a nutritionist is not considered important”.
The results of her first season working with the NBA in 1991, she points out, was proof enough of the proper-nutrition theory. “Athletes need more-than-normal energy to push themselves harder. If they’re not eating well, then by the end of the season they’re all out of steam.”
The graduate of the University of Michigan and the University of California says the more water the better. Every cell in the human body has water in it. If you squeeze it all out, says the former teacher of anatomy, the end result will be the size of a dollar bill, or a Rs-50 note.
The woman who stress that Hollywood may be health conscious but definitely not healthy —“they live on an amphetamine diet” — explains that grazing is the way to go. “Three meals a day is bad. Eight or 10 small meals all through the day, every two hours or so, is the healthiest. Maintains the metabolism, keeps the blood-sugar level steady and prevents overeating. And don’t be afraid to eat that dessert now and then. But be sure to enjoy every mouthful and count the calories as well.”
Some simple diet facts to keep in mind are that no breakfast means a greater tendency to get fat (“it’s much easier to lose weight if you have breakfast”) and fruit juices are a bad idea (“might as well drink sugar and water”). Olive oil is best, vegetable oils are the worst. A potato is as bad as a spoonful of sugar, calcium and multi-vitamins are necessary.
As for the Indian fare, the nutritionist to “the number one woman tennis player in the UK” emphatically states that spices are good but the amount of oil, or ghee, should be halved. And the best thing in the “Bangali diet” is, of course, the fish. But it’s the way it’s cooked that counts.