What Varsity Blues athletes eat: Sandakie Ekanayake

Rugby athlete Sandakie Ekanayake reveals what fuels her busy schedule

What Varsity Blues athletes eat: Sandakie Ekanayake

Food equates to energy in an athlete’s world. Sandakie Ekanayake crafts her diet so that she can balance her athletic endeavours as a lock for the Varsity Blues women’s rugby team and a member of the Pom Team.

As most rugby games take place in the afternoon, Ekanayake’s main focus before a game is breakfast. Tea is a must in the morning for Ekanayake, game day or not, and is the beginning of her daily routine. Ekanayake says that her morning nutritional focus is on carbs, protein, and fats. She likes to begin the day with breakfast foods like eggs and bacon or sausages.

As a commuter, Ekanayake’s quick on the go snack is peanut butter and jelly. The blend of protein and carbs is important to her diet.

Following her mantra of balance, dinner the night before the game is just as important. Consuming carbs is key, so Ekanayake sticks to rice or pasta. Her biggest stress though is to stay hydrated.

Staying hydrated is crucial for an athlete’s body, and so is getting protein before a game. Prior to the start of a game, she tries to consume simple carbs like a protein bar.

Her eating habits aren’t too regimented, but she does her best to stay constant in season and off season by eating healthy year round.

Like many of us, Ekanayake has a sweet tooth and her cheats are sweets. She believes it’s important to have a healthy relationship with food.

Because of her increased training and field time, “the biggest thing [in season] is just eating more frequently and eating more food,” Ekanayake says.

According to Ekanayake, she is “not too strict in season” as the main importance for her “is simply eating more food so that [she’s] eating enough to replenish what’s being used up.”

“It’s easy to lose energy when you’re doing that much work,” she adds.

From lifts, to practice, and always being on the go, “Staying hydrated and staying fueled is not as easy as you would think… given the schedule of being a student athlete and you having other commitments on the side as well,” Ekanayake admits.

One thing that can severely alter a diet is recovering from an injury. Ekanayake speaks to this as she recovers from a recent back injury.

“It’s very hard to change your diet after injury,” Ekanayake says. “I was still eating like a high performance athlete even though I didn’t need anywhere near the same amount of energy.”

While she admits that it’s “easy to fall off the wagon here,” she says that she tries to avoid inflammatory foods as she recovers.

Being adequately fueled, maintaining a healthy routine, and knowing which foods provide essential vitamins and protein is crucial to Ekanayake’s success not only on the field, but also in the classroom.

Tom Brady’s peculiar diet

Brady claims to drink somewhere between 12 and 25 glasses of water per day

Tom Brady’s peculiar diet

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady — a five-time Super Bowl Champion and three-time NFL MVP — is widely considered to be one of the greatest athletes of all time. Lately, however, Brady has been endorsing some rather strange dieting habits.

Brady developed these methods with his best friend and ‘body coach’ Alex Guerrero. Guerrero, however, has been caught up in a number of controversies, including lying about being a medical doctor.

Guerrero has also been investigated by the American Federal Trade Commission twice: the first time for starring in an infomercial for a product called Supreme Greens, which claimed to be able to cure “cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease”; the second for advertising a similar product, NeuroSafe, which was advertised as being endorsed by Brady himself.

In September 2017, Brady released his book, The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance. In this book, Brady detailed exactly what he eats every day. One main feature of his diet is an absurd amount of liquids.

In the mornings, Brady doesn’t eat a full meal. When he wakes up at 6:00 am, he drinks 20 ounces of water infused with electrolytes. He then drinks a smoothie containing blueberries, bananas, nuts, and seeds. Two hours later, he has another glass of electrolyte-infused water, and a post-workout protein shake. Brady claims to drink somewhere between 12 and 25 glasses of water per day.

He also heavily encourages snacking. He usually snacks at around 11:00 am, just before lunch. For lunch, Brady will usually have a piece of fish and a lot of vegetables. In the afternoon, he may have another protein shake or protein bar, and around 6:00 pm, Brady eats dinner, which, again, consists of mostly vegetables.

His book provides recipes for chicken and salmon burgers, green salads, and a creamy pasta sauce — which is odd, considering that he supposedly rarely eats carbs. But even Brady treats himself sometimes. He doesn’t often eat dessert, but he does give a recipe for his famous avocado ice cream.

His book also contains several strange rules for eating. Brady won’t eat carbohydrates and protein together. He recommends eating carbs or protein with vegetables instead, as he believes that this is better for digestion.

Brady’s chef Allen Campbell says that 80 per cent of his diet is vegetables and the rest of his diet is mostly duck, grass-fed organic steak, salmon, and sometimes, chicken.

Brady follows what he refers to as an alkaline diet, in order to minimize muscle inflammation. This entails limiting ‘acidifying foods,’ which mostly includes starch and dairy. Brady will not drink water 30 minutes before a meal, and will wait an hour after a meal before drinking another glass.

What is even more bizarre is the list of foods that Brady doesn’t eat. For Brady, caffeine, white sugar, salt, white flour, dairy, and all nightshade vegetables tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and mushrooms are completely off the table. He also won’t consume olive oil if it’s used in cooking but he’ll have it raw. And he won’t eat fruit, unless it’s in a smoothie.

While there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with Brady’s diet, and it clearly isn’t hindering his play on the field, many of the specific effects that his diet is supposed to have are not backed by scientific evidence.

He claims that limiting acidifying foods helps control the body’s pH balance. However, what one eats actually has little effect on the body’s pH. Your lungs and kidneys control pH levels automatically.

Brady also claims that this diet can decrease inflammation in the body. While dieting actually does have an effect on the body’s inflammation levels, the extreme methods that Brady takes to avoid inflammation are unnecessary. Typically, having a balanced diet with less processed foods is a solid start.

At 41 years old, which is already ancient in football years, Brady says he wants to play at least another five years. While he is certainly capable, his diet probably won’t go very far in helping him achieve this goal.

Intermittent fasting may be more than a fad

Fasting is linked to fat loss and improved metabolism in mice

Intermittent fasting may be more than a fad

Intermittent fasting (IF) practices have been linked to beneficial health effects, such as increased insulin sensitivity and reduced body weight.

A research team led by Dr. Kyoung-Han Kim at The Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Ottawa Heart Institute demonstrated that the effects of IF without caloric restriction include fat shedding and protection against metabolic dysfunction. The team hopes that the mechanism by which IF works can be studied to treat metabolic conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The effects of IF were tested on mice, which were subjected to a two-day unrestricted feeding period followed by one day of fasting. In the first six weeks, the IF mice demonstrated an improved metabolic state and a better ability to regulate blood sugar.

After 16 weeks of the regime, the IF mice weighed less than the control mice who ate the same total volume of food. The researchers noticed that this weight loss corresponded to a loss of white adipose tissue (WAT) and increased thermogenesis, or heat production.

WAT stores energy in the form of fat in your body. In the process of ‘browning,’ it can turn into brown adipose tissue, which is responsible for heat production from fat.

Positive effects were seen in the mice following IF, including WAT browning, which have been linked to a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). It turns out that an IF-induced increase in VEGF triggers the ‘alternative activation’ of a group of cells called macrophages. This increases the level of M2 macrophages in the body, which then are involved in the browning process.

According to the study, it is now accepted that thermogenesis by fat tissues improves metabolism and that VEGF plays a role in this process. Increased levels of VEGF in the WAT of IF mice amplified M2 macrophage activation and thermogenesis.

Obese mice were then subjected to IF without caloric restriction and a high-fat diet, and they displayed similar results after six weeks. This included improved liver function and glucose homeostasis as well as WAT breakdown. These results suggest that IF can also be used to treat obesity, in addition to preventing it.

The researchers also found that IF-induced increases in VEGF were reversible. During fasting, VEGF levels peaked, and during feeding, they decreased to their original concentrations.

When they analyzed the activity of VEGF and M2 macrophages in human tissues, they found a similar correlation.

It must be noted that comparing the effects of IF on mice and on humans is difficult. Periods of fasting lead to both mental and physiological stress, and humans have fundamental differences in baseline metabolic rates and required food intake. However, IF appears to improve both eating behaviour and mood in humans.

The researchers have stated that further rigorous studies are required to examine whether the beneficial effects of IF last after the fasting has been discontinued, the potential harms that may be associated with IF, and whether IF is age- or disease-state dependent. Future studies aim to determine the precise response of human adipose tissues to IF and its association with circadian rhythm, gut microbiome changes, and sleep regulation.

“We plan to investigate the effect of IF on human clinical setting. Based on the results seen from human trials of IF, this could be an alternative treatment method for human obesity and diabetes. However, human study will take some time to initiate,” said co-author Hoon-Ki Sung.