Dietitian Has Paralympians Eating Clean

Athletes train for years to ensure they're in peak physical condition. But just as important to how they train is what they eat. One dietitian is helping Japanese Paralympians prepare for the 2020 Games.

Mie Uchino is a nutritionist with Japan's paralympic team. Her recommendations will feed athletes in 6 sports for the 2020 Tokyo games. With more than 2 decades of experience, she knows there is no single formula for success.

Wheelchair athlete Masaaki Chiba came to her in 1996 with an unusual condition.

"I wanted to measure how dehydrated he became through exercise. But he told me he doesn't sweat,” Uchino remembers. “I thought ‘Gee, this is something new!’ He said he had a problem with his autonomic nervous system."

Chiba's condition means he can get heatstroke whenever he is active. Uchino suggested he eat shaved ice to hydrate and cool himself.

Another risk is sudden paralysis during activity. Uchino's advice helped stabilize Chiba's blood sugar. She also told him to eat something easily digestible before taking to the track.

Two years later, Chiba won silver in the hundred-meter sprint at the world championships.

"I discovered that if athletes are really aware of their condition,” Uchino says, “and if they follow a customized, nutritious diet, then the possibilities for them really open up."

One of Uchino's 2020 athletes is swimmer Chikako Suzuki. She is paralyzed in her torso and legs. This affects her intestines, digestion, and ability to build muscle.

Uchino recommended she eat fermented foods, such as amazake rice drink and yogurt.

"I'm very lucky to have her helping me make progress, step by step,” Suzuki says.

The job has many challenges, but Uchino says the biggest reward is seeing one of her athletes on the podium.