Ashwini Ponnappa is the pride of Indian badminton.
She’s won many accolades since she began playing professionally, starting with her rise to fame when she won gold in women’s doubles at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Her success has won her many supporters who follow her home workout routines in the hope that they can become professional badminton players just like her.
While the training on court and dedication to fitness in the gym have definitely been at the forefront of her successful career, Ashwini’s care for nutrition has also played an important role.
Here she discusses her approach to meals before a match that have helped her stay at the top of the game.
Getting in the right mindset
Ashwini says that when she wakes up on game day, she is “eager to get ready for the match. It’s a nervous excitement.”
Getting her mind in the right place helps her focus on what is important.
“I like running through my opponent’s match and making sure I get warmed up well before getting into the game. I love listening to music, that’s a great way for me to get into the game mode,” says Ashwini.
Ashwini’s sporting diet
Every professional athlete follows a personalized nutrition plan that helps them get the best out of their body for their respective sport. Ashwini’s diet plan is based on moderation.
“When it comes to eating, I don’t have a strict diet plan. I don’t have a diet plan. It’s eating everything but in moderation,” she says.
Nevertheless, she does try to stick to conventionally healthy foods. Her favourite healthy meal is a smoothie bowl.
What does Ashwini eat before a match?
For all athletes, preparation for a match starts at least one day prior to the match. This means fuelling your body with the right nutrients by eating the right foods.
In Ashwini’s case, she eats a regular meal. Her plan is not to focus on the type of food she is eating but more on the quantity of food she is eating.
“I don’t put too much thought into what [micronutrients] I need more. As long as I make sure not to eat too much before my match, I’m good to go,” Ashwini says when asked about her meals a day before a match.
On game day, Ashwini’s breakfast plate depends on the time of the match.
“If the match is post noon, I make sure to eat a good breakfast of what’s being served at the hotel; bread, cheese, fruits, Bircher muesli. If it’s the first match of the day, i.e 9:30am, I eat a fruit or visit the fruit bar,” she says.
Ashwini Ponnappa - No Excuses
Ashwini likes to make sure she hasn’t eaten anything at least two-and-half to three hours before the start of her match. She doesn’t eat anything just before the match starts unless absolutely necessary.
“It could be a bite of a nutrition bar or a banana. But most times I don’t eat anything before stepping onto court,” she says.
Drinks that help Ashwini through a badminton match
Ashwini makes sure to stay hydrated during her matches and loves drinking Red Bull for an energy boost.
“I like sipping on a Red Bull during my match at intervals. Only if needed I would have it before my match,” she says.
When asked for the exact moments when she drinks Red Bull, she says: “At 11 points or at 21 points if it’s during a match. If it’s before the match, I’d drink it around 20 minutes to half an hour before.”
Ashwini swears by Red Bull since it helps her stay alert and energised for her badminton matches.
“I don’t drink coffee or tea; Red Bull is the only form of caffeine I take. It definitely helps when I need to be alert before my match. Especially when I’ve got two matches, or if I’ve been sitting at the stadium for a long time, or if I’m jet lagged. It gives me a nice boost of energy and alertness,” says Ashwini.
What Ashwini eats to recover
For a professional athlete, recovery after a match is every bit as important as preparation before it. And part of the post-match recovery process is usually a recovery meal.
Since Ashwini doesn’t follow a specific diet plan in terms of micro and macro nutrients, she says her recovery meal isn’t usually anything in particular.
“Whatever is served quick and is easily accessible,” she says is what usually constitutes her recovery meal after a match.
While most athletes on a calorific diet might like to indulge a cheat meal once in a while, Ashwini says her non-restrictive diet also means that she has fewer cravings.
“There hasn’t been a need for a cheat meal. So If I’m craving something sweet, I do have something sweet. The important thing for me is making sure not to go overboard,” she says.