Nutrition for Kabaddi Players: An Over-view

Introduction to Nutrition
Nutrition is considered as one of the strongest pillars of a holistic sports science and medicine program that vastly influences performance in any sport. As most would be aware, nutrition plays a key role in enabling fuel during training sessions, aiding recovery, improving fitness components, influencing anthropometry and body composition, reducing risk of injuries, boosting immunity etc. Nutrition requirements depend upon the demands of each sport, position/discipline if applicable, periodization, training goals, training routines and last but not the least; athlete specific goals. This is the process to build out a very customized and individualized nutrition program.

Demands of the Sport
Kabaddi or the game of the masses as it is rightly called is an extremely physically demanding sport. It involves a great deal of muscular co-ordination, agility, quick responses, decision-making skills, presence of mind and breath-holding capacity. Raiders are chosen based on their attacking skills which are further dependent on tactical abilities, escaping abilities, excellent foot-work to name a few and the defense is characterized by positional play, catching ability, control, co-ordination with team mates etc.

At the same time players need to attain excellent aerobic-anaerobic, strength, power, explosive abilities, neuro-muscular co-ordination and flexibility. On an average, especially junior and senior male players are expected to have their body fats within a range of 12-14%. Considering various movements including grapples, kicks and collisions with team mates or falls on the ground, players are often exposed to a significant risk of injuries.

Nutrition Guidelines
It has been found that nutrition knowledge amongst kabaddi players has been poor especially regarding macro-nutrients and their key roles and functions. The common dietary trend has always been a consumption of a high carbohydrate diet supported with inclusions of ghee and dairy in almost every meal throughout the day.

Following is a snapshot of macro-nutrients and key-micronutrients to act as a daily dietary guideline: -

Carbohydrates: These play a crucial role in enabling fuel for training, considering the key source of fuel during play is the stored muscle glycogen. Carbohydrates are equally ensuring constant supply of glucose to the brain which is important for quick responses and decision-making-tactical skills. Fatigue sets in when players train with low-carbohydrate stores. Players should tailor-make their nutrient requirements based on their individual body-weights and hence their requirements of carbohydrates usually should revolve around 6-8g.Kg.Bw.d. They should come from good quality complex carbohydrates such as millets (jowar/bajra/ragi bhakris), unpolished/red/brown rice, sweet-potatoes, green veggies etc. at the same time from quick absorbing carbohydrates from fruits and dry fruits to be included pre-training for the necessary fuel.

Carbohydrates Nutrition

Proteins: Protein is significant along with good quality carbohydrates to build muscle mass and enhance recovery. In-conjunction with the right training, it is essential to build strength, power, explosiveness. The ideal requirement for protein can range between 2-3g.Kg.Bw.d. The key protein sources to include are non-vegetarian sources such as red-meat, lean-meat including chicken and fish, eggs, dairy sources including milk, curd, paneer, soy and dals/pulses. Most non-vegetarian sources are also natural sources of creatine which is crucial for lean body mass gains as well strength and explosiveness.


Fats: 25-30% of total energy consumed per day should come from a variety of good quality fats. These include fish sources like mackerel, salmon which are key sources of omega-3 essential as an anti-inflammatory for faster recovery coupled with nuts such as almonds, walnuts, flax seeds etc. Cholesterol from dairy and ghee is equally important for production of hormones especially testosterone for men. Fats overall act as shock-absorbers, lubricators of joints which become crucial in prevention and faster recovery from an injury.


Calcium-Vitamin D: It has been found that the fracture risk in kabaddi players is higher than most sports and therefore bone-health becomes crucial for especially junior athletes. Calcium & Vitamin D hence become extremely significant. Routine blood work to keep a check on these is equally important to avoid presence of deficiencies.

Anti-oxidants: Fruits, vegetables, nuts intake in most players has been found to be low. These are excellent sources of anti-oxidants such as Vitamins A, C, E, Zinc, Selenium which help in reducing post training soreness and help with faster recovery between back to back sessions. Colorful fruits and veggies for Vitamin A; Amla, Oranges, Capsicum, Drumsticks etc. for Vitamin C, Nuts and seeds for Vitamin E, Zinc & Selenium should make a part of one’s diet.


It is important at the end of the day to have a varied diet and more importantly to customize it as per the players individual requirements. Therefore, consult a qualified sports nutritionist to build out a plan specific for your individual needs and concerns. Remember, a good diet may not necessarily always make an average athlete elite, but a poor diet can definitely make an elite athlete average!