Rio-bound Drinkhall combating nutritional challenges at the top


Table Tennis

Rio-bound Drinkhall combating nutritional challenges at the top

25 May 2016 / 14:31

He may be about to become a double Olympian and faces all the nutritional challenges that come with being a world-class table tennis player, but Paul Drinkhall likes a good steak and chips as much as the next man.

With dual energy requirements of explosive speed and aerobic endurance, table tennis is a sport with challenging nutritional needs.

Read more about Paul in his Homegrown Heroes profile here

Drinkhall, 26, has just been named in the Team GB line-up for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in a little over two months’ time, and will need to be in peak condition to perform at his best on the biggest sporting stage of all.

But the London 2012 Olympian admitted that the rigours of travelling the world for a living make keeping a consistent diet, and staying adequately fuelled for performance, a challenge.

“If you’re just going on for a match then you need those food or drinks that are high in sugars,” said the Middlesbrough-born star.

“At a tournament some matches can last around an hour or even an hour-and-a-half, and then if it’s a team match it can be three-and-a-half to four hours, so you need to try and keep your energy levels high all the way throughout that.

“Some tournaments go on for ten to 15 days so it’s a big mix of energies and nutrition – everyone is slightly different and it’s a case of trying to keep on top of it.

“My diet differs. When we travel and go to tournaments then they provide different types of food but my pre-match meal will generally be pasta about three hours before a match and then possibly a banana 30 minutes before the match, just to top up and make sure I stay on good terms.”

Drinkhall married fellow table tennis player Joanna in August 2013 and together they won 2014 Commonwealth Games gold in the mixed doubles in Glasgow.

The couple became parents for the first time last year and with Joanna staying at home with Dougie while Paul travels the world, he admits to sometimes eating for enjoyment rather than performance when he returns to his new family.

“It’s very tough to do a weekly shop as it’s very rare that I’m home for a week at a time so it’s a case of popping in and getting a couple of days worth of food,” he added.

“Sometimes I’m only home for a very short space of time and I want to go out and eat steak and chips or a meal that I want because I know I’m travelling again and won’t get something like that for a while.

“It is very up and down but both me and my wife go out and get a shop but she’s normally in control with the list and I’m just there picking up stuff that isn’t on the list.”

Wherever he is Drinkhall tries to eat as much fruit and vegetables as possible, but as a self-confessed meat-lover he said he could never become a vegetarian and always goes for the carnivorous option when at a tournament.

“When we’re at a tournament then you normally go into the food hall or dining room and they’ve got one or two, possibly three choices at a max,” he added.

“You’ve normally got your rice and pasta, and then possibly a bit of fish or a meat, there’s not really much of a choice – you eat that or you don’t eat.

“You can go out to restaurants and try to do it that way but generally you don’t have the time.”

Sportsbeat 2016