In honour of SEA Games 2017, Malaysian athlete turned gym owner Murad Zaidi gives us insight into the diets of sportsmen.

_MG_3847.jpg (original size)Photo: Shaffiq Farhan/Malaysia Tatler

Ever wonder what an athlete's diet is like? If you're picturing piles of meat, a restriction on carbs and an endless supplements, you may be picturing it slightly wrong.

With the SEA Games 2017 in Malaysia coming to an end, we sit down with Murad Zaidi, certified fitness instructor and athlete turned gym owner, to speak about athletic diets and what they're all about.

Read also: our past coverage of Murad and his gym Xclusive Fitnesz

He's played American football, donned boxing gloves and even spent a year and the half in Thailand learning Muay Thai, but like any true Malaysian, he loves food. 

Here is his two cents:

_MG_3702.jpg (original size)Photo: Shaffiq Farhan/Malaysia Tatler

Let’s start off by talking about the types of foods that you like. What are your favourites?
I love spicy food and my favorite cuisine would be Chinese but with that I have to say that I enjoy my steaks medium rare.

Can you tell us what's the difference between the diet of an athlete versus a regular person?
The difference is the amount of calories that athletes consume versus regular people. Athletes have different dietary needs because they burn more calories than others through multiple levels and training capacities. Every meal intake, including water retention, has to be measured strictly based on each athlete needs, goal, and requirements. 

What is your take on food? Is healthy eating a lifestyle choice?
My take on food is that it has to be healthy and of course spicy. Healthy eating could be a lifestyle choice if you want to live a long healthy and happy life. 

_MG_3674.jpg (original size)Photo: Shaffiq Farhan/Malaysia Tatler

How do you manage your cravings for Malaysian favourites such as nasi lemak?
Even I indulge in those delicious foods from time to time. But what I do and would recommend others to do is to eat their favourite Malaysian foods on the days that they have a heavy training session. I've never been a firm believer of the “cheat day”. If I have a craving for nasi lemak, I'd make sure that I’ll put myself through a high intensity training protocol and make full use of the carbohydrates in my system.

What are some of your favourite Malaysian foods that you can’t live without?
It has to be yellow spicy chicken curry with rice. I believe locals call it masak lemak cili api.

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How long do you have to start eating clean prior to a competition?
As an athlete you will already have to be implementing healthy foods in your regular diet but 90 days before a competition is usually the time frame most athletes would get very strict with their food intake.

_MG_3622.jpg (original size)Photo: Shaffiq Farhan/Malaysia Tatler

Does your diet change when you’re preparing for a competition versus the day(s) of the actual competition?
Yes. Diet plays a very important role. On prep days we will make sure we eat sufficient amounts of carbs and protein, but on game days I would encourage my athletes to have a little more carbohydrates and electrolytes to make sure they have enough energy to perform and feel free of fatigue.

Do diets for athletes depend on their chosen sport. What are the differences between a boxer, a Muay Thai fighter or an American football player's diet?
At the end of the day, whether you’re a fighter or a football player, the only variables that will constantly change will be your carbohydrate and protein intake. To measure that, you will use your bodyweight and training intensity as a guideline. The only difference is the amount of carbs and proteins you will have to consume and the frequency of your meals through out the day.

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