Face to face with Sara Jemai: nutrition and training

Sara Jemai, Italian champion of javelin throwing, class 1992, tells us more about her habits in terms of training and nutrition. With a Polish mother and a Tunisian father, she approached athletics during middle school, but it wasn't her first sport, she played volleyball for a long time before dedicating herself completely to her current passion. Today Sara is part of the athletics team at the Army Sports Centre.

The champion's breakfast

Sara tells us that she never gives up on breakfast, a very important moment of her day. Fresh wholemeal bread, but also rusks, oats, cereals or unsweetened biscuits, the source of complex slow release carbohydrates to which she usually adds blueberry jam. Then there are the proteins, which for her is semi-skimmed milk. Alternatively, a soya yoghurt, or some low-fat cheese or ricotta cheese with a little honey a couple of times a week. In the fridge there are also eggs, which she has scrambled with Polish sausages that she gets directly from her grandmother. Since the time of digestion is longer, she prefers to have these on days (no more than two) when she has not trained in the morning.
And finally, a source of minerals and antioxidant vitamins. Fruit of the season if possible, trying to avoid anything that is too sweet (reserved for post-workouts), preferring blueberries and a juice. She also has dried fruit, which is a source of polyunsaturated fats: two, three nuts or almonds. And water, just before leaving.
Sara's typical breakfast
Wholemeal bread 80 g
Partially skimmed milk 250 ml
Blueberries 100 g
Jam 20 g
Cereal biscuits (3) 17 g
Walnuts (2) 16 g

How Sara Jemai trains

During the morning, Sara alternates between technical and strength training, depending on the time of year. In the winter preparation she invests a lot on the development of strength in the gym: many abdominals, bench, squat, pull over, legs and other exercises, including aerobic, until the first competitive period at the beginning of the year. With a load that touches 60, 70 percent of the maximum, alternating for example classic pyramids with peaks of 12/14 repetitions with isometric force. Translated: a lot of effort, a few throws to preserve the shoulders, a little explosiveness that between October and January is not so important. Shortly before the race, however, it reaches 90, 100 percent load with a few repetitions and lots of weight. The technique remains constant throughout the season, along with prevention training (elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles) for all joints most prone to trauma.

Post-workout nutritional analysis

With the glycogen reserves zeroed during the night fast, Sara restores her body with about 550 kcal: 50% carbohydrates, 20% proteins, 30% fats. The main contribution is given by a source of complex carbohydrates because they are digested more slowly and guarantee a delayed release of energy during the training hours.

To understand its importance, it is enough to compare this choice to a typical breakfast bar. An incorrect choice for athletes: cappuccino and croissants.

A breakfast rich in sugars and fats that creates an initial sense of satiety but that, after an hour, leads to a hypoglycaemia which is counterproductive for training.

The mix of saturated fats (those from milk) and polyunsaturated fats from dried fruit, which in turn constitute useful energy, is fundamental. Sara’s diet choices include a variety of foods, including those for protein synthesis: milk, its lean derivatives and eggs (why not, even sausages) are part of a natural protein source and easy to find that, for Sara’s sport, does not require an additional need for protein in the form of supplements.

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