What Kenyan Athletes Eat That Improves Their Performance

It is every athlete’s dream to win a medal and above all, break records. Nothing comes easy, you have to work for it. All those long hours of training and also battling with injuries. There is one thing that could also determine your performance in your sport apart from lifting weights and running, and that is diet. We can all agree that the east Africans have always dominated the long and middle distances for years now. Most specifically, Kenya and Ethiopia, with Uganda also getting into the mix. These incredible performances have attracted the attention of scientists and in a quest to find out what underlines these great east African performances, they conducted a study in Kenya and particularly in the region that produces most of the athletes.

Almost 70% or more of the Kenyan long-distance runners come from Iten, a town in Elgeyo Marakwet county. After days of research, the study concluded that in Kenya, there is a great passion for the sport and determination. Additionally, children start running at a young age going to school, whereby some of the schools are miles away from home. The issue of genetics and diet was also another key factor that constitutes these great performances, with scientists citing their bone structure as an advantage.

Now, Kenyan athletes don’t consume special diets, but traditional foods that have organically been produced. Many non-Kenyans don’t like these Kenyan dishes because it is something that unless you are a Kenyan, can be difficult for you to eat, with most people complaining about its taste. But I challenge you to try these Kenyan dishes and once you get used to them, you will enjoy them. So, these are some of the foods that Kenyans consume from a tender age.

  1. Ugali.

This is the main dish in Kenya, consumed mostly by people in the central and western parts of the country, which is simply prepared using maize flour. The process is easy; boil water in a cooking pan then add maize flour, then stir with a wooden cooking spoon constantly until its texture becomes thicker than mashed potatoes. This dish is rich in carbohydrates, providing you with the energy needed in all training activities. It can be eaten with meat or Sukuma wiki (kales).

Ugali, Image: Google
Ugali served with sukuma wiki and fish

2. Indigenous vegetables

In Kenya, apart from Sukuma wiki and spinach, there are other leafy vegetables that are nutritious and are widely consumed. They include Amaranthus also known as Terere, Spider Plant (Sagaa), African Nightshade (managu), Jews Mallow (Mrenda), Cowpeas leaves (Kunde), and Pumpkin leaves. All these vegetables are prepared and eaten with ugali.

Terere
Managu

3. Fermented milk

Most of the Kenyan tribes have traditionally prepared milk, with is fermented and without factory processing, it is able to provide probiotics that help in digestion. In the Kalenjin community, it is called the mursik

Traditional fermented milk (mursik).

4. Organic foods

Even though Kenya is industrialized but not like the developed countries, people consume organic food direct from the farm. Unlike in the developed world where most of the foods are genetically modified, in Kenya, people consume organically produced foods. The Kenyan soil is very fertile and it can produce quality and nutritious fruits and vegetables without the need for industrial fertilizers.

Organic fruits in a market in Nairobi, Kenya

5. Kienyeji Eggs

Eggs are great sources of proteins that are essential for muscle building. Therefore, most people consume eggs from birds that consume natural and organic foods from worms to grains, as opposed to the caged birds, which are the grade chicken. The grade chicken eggs are less nutritious compared to the kienyeji ones since the use of antibiotics in rearing the grade chicken contaminates the eggs. Kienyeji birds do not require drugs since they are indigenous and are also resistant to diseases.

Kienyeji eggs

This does not mean that diets from other countries are not nutritious or helpful in sports but it’s a way to show the typical lifestyle of a Kenyan athlete. However, you should also know that with the Kenyan dishes, no fancy cooking or factory foods. Simply organic and indigenous foods.

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