With the Commonwealth Games just past, it got us thinking, just what on earth does it take to fuel an elite athlete?
Obviously the diet of a gymnast is going to differ from that of a power lifter. Likewise a sprinter wouldn’t eat the same as a marathon runner. Nor would a long distance swimmer munch the same as a triathlete, but just how does it all differ?
I mean, we know they eat a lot, but just how much is a lot?
Well, the time has come to wonder no more because we asked two of athletes – Shot-Putter Adele Nicoll and High Jumper Emma Nuttall - all about what they chow down.
“I've never really been the type of gal to eat just three meals a day.”
Adele Nicoll just narrowly missed out on a place on the 2018 Wales’ Commonwealth Games team, but as the National U23 record holder and World Youth Finalist, her sights are firmly fixed on the 2020 Olympics.
A Cardiff Met student, she is dedicated to her sport, and understands the important role nutrition has in helping her reach her goals.
“I know that I eat A LOT,” says Adele, “my body seems to function much better if I eat 6 smaller meals a day.”
Unsurprising really that a Class A Shot-Putter would eat “a lot,” but it’s not “a big meal every two hours, but something along the lines of a yoghurt or protein bar or piece of fruit.”
On top of that, Adele tries to make sure she eats 9 portions of fruit and veg a day along with “a good mix of white and red meats” to keep her iron levels up.
Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking that, as an elite athlete, Adele’s diet is sugar free, super clean and crammed with nothing but whole foods. Surely, she’d never fill her finely tuned, elite body with the likes of chocolate or crisps?
“I would be an absolute liar if I said I never eat a chocolate bar or packet of crisps because truth be told, I probably have a packet of crisps at least every other day,” she says.
We think Adele’s sensible outlook on diet is really rather refreshing compared to the so called Insta stars of today who only eat organic, sugar free, whole foods because that’s the “only way you can be truly healthy.”
According to our favourite Welsh Shot-Putter, “as long as I am sensible and eat everything in the right proportions, then happy days!” Here, here!
She continues, “as an athlete my life is very much centred around fuelling and refuelling my body before and after training sessions. Nutrition is definitely something I would like to spend more time looking into but right now I don’t have much time to get caught up in weighing out my exact food portions or counting the macros that I should consume.”
However, Adele does track her calorie intake using MyFitnessPal to ensure she eats close to 3000 calories on a daily basis to maintain her body weight for competition, but she admits hitting this target is often a struggle, “on average [I] consume 2000-2500 calories.”“I wouldn't eat any naughty foods before an event, I'd save that for after!”
So, what actually makes up her 2000 - 3000 calories? Check this out…See Adele's Typical Meal Plan »
The High Jumper
“As a high jumper, I need to be lean for the event, therefore nutrition plays a big part in getting me in shape.”
In 2013, Emma Nuttall was crowned British High Jump Champion and looked set to take the high jump world by storm until a nasty knee injury thwarted her progress in 2014.
Since then she’s spent her time recovering and training hard in order to come back better and stronger, and indeed she did landing a place on the Scottish Commonwealth Games team of 2018.
However, mere weeks before she was due to jet off to the Gold Coast, Emma received yet another devastating blow. Having nursed her knee through injury at the start of the year, further diagnosis confirmed tendinopathy and her training and competition had to be put on hold until early in the summer season.
Naturally nutrition is vital to her recovery. It “is extremely important to me,” she says, “I love food and cooking, and know that eating fresh, vibrant food and looking after my nutrition makes a huge difference in my training.”
“[Eating good, nutritious food] makes me feel better and helps me train and recover better,” she continues.
With this in mind, Emma attempts to eat roughly 2000-2200 calories a day split over three main meals and a handful of snacks on training days.
As a competition looms, she reduces this calorie intake to ensure she is lean enough to compete, but not lacking in energy.
Likewise, if it is a rest day or recovery day, she would manipulate her carbohydrate intake for that day but replacing high carb foods with lower carb alternatives like rice for Cauli-rice.
Of course, much in the same way that Adele enjoys her occasional packet of crisps, Emma also likes to indulge her sweet tooth, “I like a chocolate hobnob or a rich tea to dunk in a cup of tea at some point during the day – just not every day!” she says.“I believe you can eat everything in moderation.”
Here's a glimpse of what Emma would eat on an average training day…See Emma's Typical Meal Plan »
So, there you have it, two vastly different field sports with two vastly different outlooks on nutrition!
However, if there’s one thing you should take away from both Adele and Emma, is that the key to success is balance and moderation.
It's ok to enjoy a packet of crisps or a cheeky chocolate hobnob once in a while as long as you've your sights firmly fixed on your end goal.