Why go Plant-based? We ask Tanvi Lad, International badminton player

Tanvi Lad is an international Badminton Player who represented India in the 2014 Incheon Asian games. She came second in the Croatian International Tournament in 2019. Presently ranked 116, In 2017, Lad was ranked 49 in the world rankings and was the third-best ranked women’s singles player from India, after PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal. Now since we have gotten done with the facts and you know how awesome Tanvi is, we consider it our privilege to have caught up with her during the lockdown. 


During the course of a candid, honest conversation, our founder Arthi and Tanvi speak about going plant based, her larger fitness regimen and her recovery journey. We caught Tanvi during her routine time-out in the sun. Goes to prove, we are all plants deep inside. All we need is some sunlight and water. 

 

How to manage training right now?

“We don’t get to play much. We are trying to keep fit. Fitness is the thing that drops immediately. Trying to do as much as we can, without the weights and without really getting to run much” says Tanvi. During this lockdown, the options for proper training are limited. At present, it is key to manage with agility workouts and basic movements instead of trying for a full-fledged resistance training and cardio routine. Using resistance bands and following bodyweight workouts are a good alternative. 


What do people not know about pro-athletes?

During the introduction, Tanvi speaks about the demanding lifestyles of athletes. Shuttling between training, performing and recovering, diet plays a very important role in being and staying fit. Diet is also a variable that keeps shifting between phases. The requirements are different during tournaments in comparison to time-off or training. 


What is Tanvi’s plant-based journey like?

“I actually made the switch, quite a coincidence in terms of being a month before The Gamechangers documentary release. I was in a heavy training phase spending a lot of time at the gym. My diet was predominantly a lot of protein in terms of chicken, egg, fish. It was low-carb but a lot of protein. I was feeling strong, but I wouldn’t say I was feeling particularly energetic. Badminton is an endurance sport and you need endless amounts of energy to keep bounding all over the court”, says Tanvi. She adds that she is about 80% plant-based. After watching the documentary ‘The Gamechangers’, Tanvi took a leap of faith and gave plant-based diets a try. 

How did the plant-based diet impact Tanvi?

“I started with an intention of going for two weeks. I went on to  play two tournaments after that. I continued into that tournament phase. I would say the main change I found was that I was a lot more energetic! Primarily because my sources of protein like quinoa or beans and lentils and sprouts also had an element of carb in it. Yes, I was definitely more energetic on court!”


Tanvi noticed hardly any change in strength and muscle mass. Working with a nutritionist to calibrate the protein and carb intake while working on shifting the diet is important, says Tanvi. After changing to a plant-based diet, Tanvi found her sources of protein had an abundance of carbohydrates as well. The shift also helped with being more alert and focussed


Doesn’t it get challenging?

Maintaining flexibility is important. We cannot expect plant-based diets to be available in all parts of the world. As a travelling athlete, it is important to be flexible with the available food based on geography. Avoiding certain foods helps Tanvi keep lighter, more alert and nimble. With certain guidelines and more flexibility to what is available and what works, helps maintain physical fitness and a great mental state while travelling and competing consistently.


Tanvi and Arthi took a sidebar at this point and spoke about the need for being patient, prudent and diligent while making the switch. A lot of people struggle with making the switch because of the perceived drastic changes they are making to their lifestyle, often without proper knowledge. This leads people to believe plant-based diets are insufficient. Tanvi added a practical challenge of not having the right food groups available in all parts of India. She reckons this need can be overcome with good supplements and needless to say finds STRIVE tasty and adequate for her requirements. While she misses her edamame and tofu, Tanvi is thankful for STRIVE. The glint in Arthi’s face suggested that the feeling is mutual!


How to work around the missing nutrients while moving around?

Keep a good protein powder, preferably pea-based, rice, and hemp. Vitamin supplements. Almond milk-based smoothie for a quick fix in between games. Soaking quinoa, beans and lentils for quick microwave meals also help. In the end, a lot of it comes down to the personal commitment that takes in eating right. You can always take the easier route with eggs or chicken, but when the stakes are high, you wouldn’t want to take those chances. “Sometimes, giving the hotel a call ahead, checking how they can help you with your diet is an effort worthwhile. Also helps to carry a mini electric cooker for lentils and grains during travel”, says Arthi. Being prepared while you are travelling makes all the difference. 


Both Arthi and Tanvi agree that while it may be a little extra from a planning and preparation perspective, the results definitely outweigh the efforts.


Is plant-based sustainable or needed for a non-athlete?

If you are active or working out a few times a week. To reduce the acidity and try and alkalise your body, moving to plant-based is an effective way to go, in order to reduce inflammation. Levels of uric acid goes up when you consume meat. While competing, lethargy is the last thing you want to be combatting with. When your body is constantly using energy and effort to digest complex meat and dairy-based food, it has less energy to spend on activities. You want to eat food that can fuel you without weighing your digestive system down. 


What’s the choice cheat meal for an international athlete?

With a bright smile, Tanvi admits she loves anything salted caramel for a cheat meal. Both Arthi and Tanvi admit the need for a sweet meal or cheat meal every now and then. Depending on the intensity of the week and being intuitive about eating, Tanvi believes that you have to listen to your body when it tells you what it needs. Being smart about cheat meals is also necessary. It’s easy to go down that path and end up wasting all the hard work we have put in. (Multiple heads from our team starts shaking sheepishly)


Athletes Tanvi admires

Tanvi admires Rafael Nadal and finds a lot of similarities with him. Although, she feels she is not as strict about the arrangement of bottles during gametime. She also loves Tai Tzu-ying, the Taiwanese badminton player, and admires her quick, strong style of playing. 


What’s the one Tanvi tip?

You have to be relentless. It is hard to be focussed everyday. Good things take patience. You go in a week, hear a negative voice and fall off your journey. Having faith in something once you make that commitment is important. Put your faith into something, whether you call it God or whether it is your team or coach, the faith that you put in has to be unshakeable and that will drive you to stay focussed, when a lot of people may try to pull you down. Mental resilience is key for success as much as  More than physical strength and nutrition.


Give us one nutrition tip

Invest in a smoothie maker. (The team immediately opens Amazon.in, only to realise we are in lockdown). Smoothie-maker is versatile and helps with ensuring a ready to consume source of energy and nutrition. 


Arthi and Tanvi signed off by emphasising on the importance of getting the greens in, preferably first thing in the morning. Tanvi signed off with the need for getting the right consultation and support. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to making dietary decisions and changing your lifestyle. 


We had so much fun catching up with an absolute champ! Hope you had fun going through the interview. We wish Tanvi a life-time of health, wellness and success.