“It has happened to me to gain 8 pounds in one day”: the fear of weight gain among confined athletes

“What's the matter? Are you sick? Why don't you eat?” The French wrestler Ilman Mukhtarov No matter how explain it to his mother, she doesn't understand. Why does his son, beefy as he is, “big eater” when he was a kid, not eat properly? “I tell him that I am a top athlete and that I cannot eat normally however“Since the start of confinement, many athletes have returned to their parents or to their families. Accustomed to living with them only for a few days, relatives then become aware (or not) of the daily sacrifices of athletes: l hygiene of life must be impeccable. No burger, no fries, no sweet drink. Wrestlers, judokas and other boxers must not make too big food gaps, under penalty of having many pounds to lose at the end of confinement.

Stay at home … but don't eat too much!

Going overnight from a frame drawn to the millimeter to perform, to the anarchy of the family home or to the emptiness of the solitary apartment: the challenge is immense for some athletes. “They are no longer in their usual sports environment”, analysis Lise Anhoury, INSEP psychologist and specialist in compulsive eating disorders (TAC). “In normal times, everything is set to the minute: from sunrise to bedtime, training, meals, competition, relaxation. With them, there is a completely different relationship to the time to have, and that can cause fear and anxiety related to weight. “ The call from the belly can then quickly be heard. “There is nothing to do”, assures Laura Schiel, para-taekwando world champion. “It's easier to go open the fridge and nibble than saying, 'I have to do my abs session'. The afternoon is the hardest, because I usually come home from 3 hours of exhausted training. Generally I rest or sleep. There is nothing … “

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During confinement, also take care of your diet!

Too much time to think, not enough to sweat. “It's a big, big problem for me”, confirms Ilman Mukhtarov. “I gain weight quickly. So when I knew we were in confinement, I was afraid. “ Ilman is in the -61 kg category. Today, he weighs 70 kilos. “My extreme limit is 71”, he specifies. What if it goes to 75? “I panic. I don't feel well at all. And I do everything to lose weight quickly. I skip a meal. I put on my K-Way to sweat and lose the calories as quickly as possible”.

Since the juniors, wrestlers, such as judokas or boxers, have learned to execute weight gain. “95% of the wrestlers I know have a problem with the weight”, says the French wrestler. The period, conducive to relaxation, is clearly at risk. “Even if we keep the sessions at a distance”, Explain Frédéric Roualen, physical trainer of the French wrestling team, “daily energy expenditure decreases, and that's what we have to compensate for by reducing caloric intake “ This new inactivity makes dietitians even more important than usual. “I sent a message to all the athletes at the start of the confinement to tell them that I was available at all times, for advice and listening”, indicated Laurie-Anne Maquet, dietician of the French judo team. “We must lower the starchy foods, eat more pulses, lentils. And above all, avoid snacking and eat fruits and vegetables”

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Containment: “The risk is gaining body fat”, explains Emmanuel Brunet

It is a classic diet for high performance athletes. For the most part, it is assimilated and controlled hygiene; and despite the confinement, the weight gain is calmly apprehended. “I might gain a couple of pounds at worst. But it doesn't matter, I will adjust, I do it naturally. And then when you train less, you are less hungry!” coward, all smiles, Madeleine Mongo, French judokate. The serenity is the same for Maé-Bérénice Maïté, figure skater : “When you are high-level sportswoman, you are hyper-active, you find ways to keep your figure and to limit the damage of weight gain”. Certainly. But the equation is far from being so clear for everyone.

Whatsapp strategy and postponement of the Olympics

Other athletes, by their morphology and / or their personal history, are more likely to gain weight. “They need a routine“, assures Lise Anhoury.”A structured environment, which will keep them in a sporting reality.

It is in fact the obsession of the various staffs and supervisors of the Blues since the beginning of the confinement: to maintain a sporting reality. That is to say, multiply, by all possible means, communications between staff and athletes. “It's easy to keep in touch with the athlete via Whatsapp”, assures Thomas Cerboneschi, the physical trainer of the French wrestling team. “We created a group conversation with the whole team, and above, we publish our sessions, our advice, we discuss. “ Thanks to messaging, the group atmosphere is virtually maintained. “Containment would have been much more complicated 20 years ago”, concludes the physical trainer. A similar device exists within the judo team. And individually, Whatsapp can be used as a virtual crutch, as Laura Schiel tells in para-taekwando: “Lise (her psychologist, editor's note) sends me a message almost every day to ask if I'm okay. As soon as I have a drive, the urge to snack, I talk to her. And seeing the coach every days during video conferences, it really helps me stay on track “

“When I learned about the postponement of the Olympic Games, I dropped everything”

The challenge is therefore to stay the course. But what course are we talking about exactly? The Olympic Games, for most of them. The announcement of the postponement of the competition was feared. And she arrived this Tuesday. “It was really big anxiety”, says Laura Schiel. “Besides, when I found out, I spent the day anxious, stressed. And I tend to eat when I'm upset. For the moment it's okay, I'm holding on. “ Loris Frasca also recognizes that the blow was tough. “I had to go do my daily sport, but when I heard the news, I gave up on everything. I spent the day doing nothing.” Without the Olympics in sight in four months, discipline and healthy living could fall like a blow. The following days could thus prove to be crucial, according to psychologist Lisa Anhoury: “There will inevitably be a drop in blood pressure in all athletes. It is an event that they have been preparing for months, even years. The coach will have to take stock quickly, fix the next steps. The little demotivation is not worrying, as long as they recover quickly ”

The shadow of bulimia

In times of great decompression, athletes in weight category sports can be prone to serious binge eating. Ilman Mukhtarov remembers: “Before, after the competitions, I sometimes let go completely. I ate, ate, ate, I did not stop. I happened to gain 8 pounds in one day! I made myself very sick! I don't know what it is … We want to let off steam on food, it's in the brain, suddenly, an uncontrollable urge to eat “. Now he thinks he's much more in control “with experience“, even if he “stay on guard“until the end of confinement. The danger of having food with athletes was only belatedly recognized by the French State. The law relating to the health of athletes in 1999, and above all the decree which completed it in 2006, require an early season interview with a nutritionist and a psychologist.


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