Being a top-notch, record-breaking athlete definitely, comes with its set of perks as well as hardships. It is a round-the-clock job that requires endless dedication. Wanting to understand more about how they fuel their energy, maintain their physiques, and keep up with their demanding schedules, we sat down with a few of Egypt’s top athletes to get the scoop:
Youssef Abo Soud, Swimming:
Swimming has got to be one of the toughest sports, both mentally and physically and Abo Soud has been a member of the Egyptian national swimming team for 8 years now. “My parents first enrolled me in swimming classes back when I was a little kid to make sure I don’t drown on holidays, but I somehow got hooked and started doing it professionally- I discovered my talent by pure coincidence,” said Abo Soud. It has not been all rainbows and sunshine, though, for Abo Soud wakes up every day at the crack of dawn and is in the pool practicing by 5 am. “We, swimmers, train twice a day and we have to balance that with our academic life or career,” he continued.
Nutrition is key when it comes to keeping up with such a hectic training schedule. “Before jumping into the water first thing in the morning, I like to keep it light so I can be fast in the water. I usually go for a bowl of cereal with skimmed milk and a banana,” stated Abo Soud. “My go-to post-workout drink is, much to everyone’s surprise, chocolate milk. I’ve read several studies that suggest that it boosts muscle recovery. After that, I go for a big meal that incorporates carbs and proteins,” he continued.
Aya Mahdy, Fencing:
Currently ranked the number one female player in fencing in Egypt, this talented twenty-one-year-old is a robust athlete. “I lead quite a busy life as I am both a mechanical engineering undergraduate student and a professional fencing player,” stated Mahdy. “I started my athletic journey in fencing 9 years ago and the biggest hardship I ever faced was qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics. I didn’t manage to qualify because I scored two points less than the cut-off score. It was a very emotional time for me and I felt extremely demotivated, but I have come back stronger than ever,” shared Mahdy.
“Before working out, I like to munch on a protein energy bar or a chocolate or a banana and after working out is the best time for a well-balanced meal- it is what I call the golden hour,” she stated. “I like to go for meals that incorporate most food groups, so proteins, grains, fibers, beans, you name it.”
Abdelrahman Alaa aka “Cavio,” CrossFit:
“As a current CrossFit competitor and a former soccer player, I’ve been exposed to several competitions and diverse types of training methodology throughout my life,” stated the Head Coach at HIIT. Leading the busy dual life as both an entrepreneur and an athlete, Cavio wakes up at 8 am every day and trains for 3 hours straight, or divides his workout into two sessions- one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
“What I have learned during my years as an athlete and through the nutrition courses I have taken is that what works for everyone, in terms of nutrition, differs from one person to another. Aspects that cause that difference include bodily reactions to food intake, the type of sport you are doing, and of course, the time of the day you choose to train,” he stated.
Talking specifically about his own personal nutrition regimen, one thing that Cavio mixes up is his morning cup of coffee, which he sips on while having his first meal of the day that serves as his pre-workout meal. For breakfast, he usually loads up on proteins and carbs, “There are three options for my breakfast. The first option comprises of 5 eggs and a bowl of oatmeal topped with a banana, 1 spoon of honey and a handful of nuts. The second option is some beef sausages with boiled potatoes and butter. The third option is pancakes made using my own recipe from ingredients like oats, eggs, honey, peanut butter, and bananas,” specified Cavio. His workout go-to supplements are BCAAs.
Post working out, he goes for a quick protein shake. Thirty-forty minutes after that, he goes for a quick-yet-filling meal. Options for this meal include a mix of bananas, apples and nuts, or rice, green salad and nuts or pasta, green salad and nuts.
Nada El Adawy, Track and Field:
Track and field is not for the faintest of hearts, it is a challenging sport that heavily depends on stamina and strength. “Seven years ago, I decided to take up long jump as my main event in track and field and I haven’t stopped since,” said El Adawy. “ Long jump is an event in which athletes combine speed, flexibility, strength, and agility in order to leap as far as possible from a specific point. Therefore, I always have to keep my body fit, healthy and strong,” she continued.
“I am a huge fan of fresh pre-workout smoothies since they boost my energy levels yet keep me feeling light on my feet. An alternative to one of those smoothies would be a banana,” stated El Adawy regarding he pre-workout regimen. “For my post-workout meal, I like to keep it healthy most of the time. It is usually my biggest meal of the day with a heavy focus on proteins and fibres. I’d usually go for an adequate serving of grilled chicken with a bunch of mixed vegetables,” she continued.
Coach Yassin, Boxing and Capoeira:
With an impressive athletic background, Coach Yassin has made quite a name for himself in the fitness field. “During my childhood years, I was a gymnast, swimmer and tennis player. By the age of 14, I had shifted my athletic focus to boxing and this is where it all began,” recalled Yassin. “I began exploring the worlds of boxing/kickboxing, Capoeira, and Pilates and at some point realized that I want to be a professional trainer. My training career began with pilates, followed by TRX and then currently I am a professional boxing and capoeira coach,” he continued.
Coach Yassin is juggling his daytime job as a PE teacher, his father duties, and his night time job as a coach quite impressively whilst also maintaining a healthy physique and here is how he does it all. “Personally, I am not a fan of working out first thing in the morning. So, later on in the day, I do my workout, which is comprised of either HIIT exercises, boxing or weight-training depending on the day,” he stated. “Some of my favorite pre-workout snacks are apples with peanut butter or a banana,” he continued. Being a fan of loaded salads, Coach Yassin usually opts for a tuna salad or a chicken salad after he’s done with his daily workout.
Youssef Mekkawy, Handball:
The construction engineering undergraduate student has been playing handball for a total of 16 years, and has been competing professionally for 5 years on Gezira Sporting Club’s first team as well as the Egyptian national team. “My biggest obstacle has always been that the practice venue is about 90 minutes away from where I live. I’ve been trying not to let that, as well as the fact that I practice 6 days a week, sometimes twice a day, affect me academically, but of course it has. However, it has taught me true discipline and commitment that I could have never learned elsewhere.” When it comes to what keeps him going strong, it is the fact that it has been his lifelong dream to play for the national team. Mekkawy also stated that the highlight of his athletic career so far has been reaching the World Cup’s semi-finals.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for me and the earlier I have it, the better. When it comes to fuelling up, it is more about quality than quantity. You need to get some protein early on, but you also carbs for energy. I usually eat 4-5 eggs, one small fruit and one loaf of bread. I also drink a large cup of milk,” stated Mekkawy. All throughout the day, Mekkawy eats 4-5 meals as he believes that is what optimally works for him. “After my training, I drink my protein shake and eat a meal comprised of a serving of carbs with one can of tuna. I sometimes need some BCAA for recovery,” said Mekkawy. “One rule I live by is that my last meal of the day must be before 9 pm,” he continued.
Omar Salama, Weightlifting:
“I am definitely what you would call a fitness junkie. I was born into a family of athletes with both my grandfather and mother being record-breaking swimming champions. As a kid, I was a swimmer, but I always felt like I was living in the shadows of my family members and I wanted to do something different,” said Salama. After quitting swimming, Salama went on to try out basketball, tennis, karate, boxing and volleyball, and although he managed to excel in these sports, he never felt passionate enough about any of them. “My passion for soccer was something I discovered when I was enrolled into Alexandria Sporting Club’s team. I continued my pro soccer career for 7 years before I was severely injured,” continued Salama.
His dream to become a professional soccer player was suddenly chattered, but that didn’t stop him from building himself up again. “I started learning about physiotherapy and what I can do to strengthen my weakened muscles. I began going to the gym and working on my knees day and night. When I hit 18, I had managed to heal my knees and had discovered a new passion in the process for weightlifting,” recalled Salama. Salama got hooked and started learning more and more about bodybuilding, weightlifting, cross-training and powerlifting. Although he is now a coach, he still believes he has a lot to learn.
When it comes to nutrition, Salama believes that everyone’s different. His personal regimen focuses on keeping his body well-balanced so it can quickly and efficiently recover and heal itself. “My pre-workout and post-workout meals consist of proteins, fats, and carbs. I usually consumer my pre-workout meal two hours before working out and consume and post-workout meal right after I finish working out,” stated Salama. “Before working out, I usually consumer two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to enhance digestion and absorption of certain vitamins and minerals. I also like to have a cup of green tea,” he continued.