To stay in condition during COVID-19, Hidilyn, Nesthy follow carb-controlled diet

May 16, 2020
PHOTO: Jerome Ascano

TWO months ago, their parallel quests for an Olympic berth came to a shuddering halt.

But for national athletes Hidilyn Diaz and Nesthy Petecio, the conditioning goes on under quarantine.

Still, they admit, it’s hard to keep in shape during a COVID-19 lockdown. In an online webinar organized by the Philippine Olympic Committee and hosted by Akiko Thomson Guevara, the two spoke about the difficulties that come with maintaining their strength, conditioning, and nutrition in these extraordinary times.

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Patching in from Baguio, where she’s been marooned for the past two months, Petecio admitted, laughing: “Di na napapasok minsan ang disiplina sa ganitong sitwasyon po ngayon. Yung abs ko, nagiging tabs na. Buo na po siya. Delikado na!”

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The women’s featherweight world champion was supposed to join a global qualifier tournament this month in Paris. Now, she’s being forced to train, and cook, on her own at home.


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Diaz is slightly more lucky. She has been training in Kuala Lumpur since February in preparation for a possible shot in the now-canceled Tokyo Olympics. So her trainer is there with her.

Even so, the Olympic silver medalist worried she’s getting out of shape.

“Before nag-start ang MCO (movement control orders, Malaysia’s equivalent of the ECQ), talagang kain ako nang kain,” she said. “Lumaki ako. Lumaki ang tiyan ko. Akala ko kaunti lang kinakain ko e.”

Monitoring the two athletes remotely is their nutrition coach, Jeaneth Aro.

“Nung simula talaga kasi ng lockdown, more than sa nutrition, ang naging role ko as their own nutrition coach [was] giving them compassion and moral support,” she said during the webinar.

Aro added: “Nung nag-start yung lockdown, mas inunawa ko ang pinagdadaanan nila mentally.”

Currently, now that things have more or less settled into a 'new normal', she’s sending meal plans to her two athletes to try and keep them in condition during COVID-19.

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Diaz said that she’s now getting into cardio, cooking (especially adobo), and calorie counting. Petecio, meanwhile, laughingly told the webinar about her struggles with eating vegetables.

“Alam namin ni ma’am Jeaneth ‘to, di talaga ako kumakain ng gulay,” she said. She can only bear vegetables, she said, if they’re cooked in gata or in adobo style.

But for everyone, whether you’re an Olympic-level athlete or a basketball fan stuck at home, watching what you eat is something that will armor up your body against COVID-19, said Aro.

“Food and supplementation can definitely help strengthen our immune system so we will be able to fight it off,” she explained.

For Diaz, Petecio, and the other athletes she’s working with, Aro advocates not a low-carb diet, but rather, a carb-controlled diet.

“Meaning, yung amount of carbohydrates na kakainin mo should be dependent on the level of intensity and the frequency of workout that you do in a day,” she said. So it’s not reduced carbs, but rather, just the right amount of carbs — preferably, before and after they do their training and exercise.

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If your budget can afford it, she recommends switching to red or black rice. But white rice will do fine, as long as portions are controlled appropriately. Aro and Diaz also discussed a weightlifter’s protein intake: a half-scoop of whey before training, and then a scoop after, at least for Hidilyn.

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Both national athletes stressed the importance of staying safe and healthy, not just for yourself, but for the country at large. The sooner COVID-19 gets under control, the sooner things will get back to normal for everyone — and for these elite athletes, that means going back to the grind.

“Sumunod muna tayo hanggang maging okay po, hindi po para sa sarili natin, [pero] sa pangkalahatan po 'to,” said Petecio. “Para makalaro na din po kami, maka-training na po kami nang maayos, kasi, totoo po, grabe na. Gigil na gigil na po yung katawan ko na bumalik sa training.”

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PHOTO: Jerome Ascano
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