After his triumph at Wimbledon, Djokovic has equaled his Grand Slam titles (20) with those of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and he is in the best disposition, due to age, physical condition and probably also mental condition, to be the player who ends up wearing the most so-called ‘big’ tournaments in his record.
The entertaining fight of the 3 great ‘bastards’ of tennis, so that only one ends up being the best of all time (that GOAT that fans use so much in English, plays with the double meaning as an acronym for Greatest Of All Time and its true meaning; the billy goat), it has clearly led to something far beyond the court. The third in contention, a diner that hardly anyone expected, and who probably nor did they need the most ‘purist’ fans of the so-called ‘head to head’ (melee rivalry) between the myths of each era, has not only sat at the table, but has done so on the basis of a permanent need to differentiate.
Much has been said about the change of habits, especially training and nutrition, in elite athletes. In Djokovic’s case, the changes in eating patterns began more than a decade ago, and originated from the advice of a Serbian doctor, Dr. Igor Cetojevic, upon realizing the Balkan player’s probable gluten sensitivity. Nothing that we do not know today. Something that very few of their rivals knew then, who were perhaps taken by surprise by the sudden improvement of their rival at critical moments of the matches.
What was a great opportunity for his rivals (close matches; long points; moments of great tension) suddenly became the Serbian tennis player’s greatest weapon. Its ‘conversion’ to a type of diet “plant-based”, that is, based mainly on fruits, vegetables, cereals (of course gluten-free), avoiding all kinds of processed foods, and almost all animal protein (especially meat, very radically removed), not only offered him, according to his own confession, “the possibility of opting for challenges that he previously saw out of my reach”, but he has also embarked on projects of great media impact, and certainly controversial, such as his business commitment to documentaries ” The Game Changers ”, led by none other than James Cameron, with the support of names like Arnold Schwarzenegger, the NBA player Chris Paul, Lewis Hamilton o el actor Jackie Chan.
In El Confidencial we have sat at the table Daniel de la Serna, a physiotherapist specializing in clinical psychoneuroimmunology, and part of the team of Paula Badosa, one of the protagonists of the year in Spanish tennis. Her new work group, led by Javier Martí (who has stopped competing in ATP tournaments and the so-called Challengers, to take on his first challenge as a coach), has been incorporating new proposals in Paula’s day-to-day, both within and off the track, with very good results so far …
This chronicler needs Hawkeye on the subject of diets. With the permission of the reader.
Question. Everyone talking about diets, fasting, what works … and people do not know if they believe that victories depend on that …
Answer. Certainly, the victories depend on many interrelated factors, but which materialize in one that is the ability to make good decisions on the part of the athletes. Perhaps it is more interesting to think about how the right context can be generated to be able to make good decisions at the same time that the heart is beating at 180 beats and the leg muscles demand more blood and energy to be able to maintain performance. Giving so much importance to diet, in my opinion, is a simplification of a much more complex process. To generate the ideal adaptations that facilitate this, training, diet, fasting, water intake, water fasting, rest, supplementation, the way in which we relate to the environment or social relationships have a lot of influence .
Q. Where does all this come from … and where is it going … It seems that there is always something else that has not been contemplated …
R. I think that the field of high performance sports is constantly evolving, there are many disciplines linked to the field of human physiology deciphering the mechanisms of action that help us understand the processes linked to performance. This abundance of scientific knowledge with very different approaches makes it possible to constantly propose new interventions and methods of approach to working with athletes. Some of these interventions are built on very serious scientific support and others are perhaps much more intuitive. From there, I think that how this is told, and the channels that are used to tell it, distort part of the deep knowledge and we see that very often, for example with diets. Suddenly, it is published that so and so follows a vegan diet and that this is the key to his success and shortly after Menganito has bought a hyperbaric bed and that this is the new key to victory, books will have been published along the way , videos, courses, documentaries and I do not know how many more things about this that all it does is end up generating a lot of confusion and confusing the part with the whole, isolating elements that surely by themselves have a much more limited real influence on sports performance .
Q. You hear all kinds of things around the vegan diet. Even James Cameron produced a documentary, supported by athletes like Nole, or Chris Paul, about the benefits of this type of diet …
R. I think that the vegan diet is very well brought at this time, it has a lot of fit now that ecological consciousness begins to have so much weight in society and therefore it is a friendly discourse that will surely find many recipients. What I am not clear about is that this consciousness offers true coherence to the physiology of the human being. Humans are strange animals from this biological perspective, and it is that unlike most animals we can eat everything, we can even decide to eat without being hungry, but the reality, and in this sense there is much evidence of work done with approaches anthropological, tells us that our species is not vegan, indeed, perhaps if we had not stopped being vegetarian, our brain would not have expanded and connected as it did. Here I think that there are conflicts of different kinds, on the one hand human biology and on the other hand the way of understanding the relationship with the planet and therefore the beliefs of people. Beliefs are not debatable, that is why it seems absolutely legitimate and respectable for an athlete to decide, based on their beliefs, to lead a vegan lifestyle. But I, as a health professional, will have to be very attentive to identify if the biology of that athlete accepts a dietary pattern of this nature. Success stories will appear in the news, but not the cases of those athletes who tried to follow a vegan diet, but who in doing so began to develop digestive symptoms or decreased their performance.
Q. That Papuan saying you used in your courses always caught my attention … “intelligence is just a rumor until it reaches the muscle …”
It is as you say an old Papuan saying, which I heard a long time ago from one of my great teachers and today a friend Bernardo Ortín, and which condenses a fundamental fact for the athlete and that is that the brain continues to be the organ that dominates performance. The emotional motor system, which is a region that involuntarily regulates the functioning of the muscles with maximum efficiency, remains under the influence of other brain areas that generate the experience of what has been lived, from cognitive areas where thoughts are constructed and confronted with social references, to limbic areas more associated with emotional and sensory experience. In such a way that sensations, emotions, and thoughts are constantly joining and conditioning the access that the athlete has to this emotional motor system and, therefore, regulating muscle tone that sometimes makes you go into trance states or makes you the muscular tension is excessive when taking a penalty in the final of the Eurocup, or facing the break point in the key game of the fourth set of the final of Wimbledon. It is therefore a poetic way of reflecting a neurophysiological process.
“It is of little use to condemn our habitual behavior patterns,” says Tim Gallwey, in his manual The Inner Game of tennis, considered as one of the references not only of the teaching of this sport, but also of the later denominated managerial ‘coaching’. “It is much more useful to understand the role that these habits are playing (…), and then an alternative pattern of behavior may emerge that better fulfills that role.” “Freedom from stress,” Gallwey continues, “does not necessarily imply depriving yourself of many things, but rather being able to let go of something when necessary.” It seems clear that Djokovic had plenty of meat in his diet, what is no longer so obvious is that the same thing happens to all those athletes who want to reach the maximum in their specialty.
Marching another at his point, president.