As you sit back and watch the best athletes in the world battle it out for Olympic glory, you will have noticed that the margins between winning and losing at this level are minute.
Basic nutrition for health and performance will not turn you into an Olympic legend, but it can be the difference between a Gold medal and total despair. The Great Britain Women’s hockey team have had a nutritionist working 2 days a week for 3 years to get us well educated, lean, and healthy for the Olympic Games. Unfortunately, due to the limited number of staff accreditations available, our nutritionist is not on hand in the village to support the team. This means we have to draw on all our education and experience to make the correct food choices in incredibly difficult circumstances.
Without beating around the bush, the Olympics is an extremely stressful and intense environment. There is a lot of time between games where you’re sitting around with your feet up trying to recover. We may be athletic freaks who are unusually adept at hitting a ball with a stick but we still experience the same food cravings as you! Boredom, stress and fatigue often result in sugar cravings. Your brain is primed to seek foods that provide a quick fix solution to low mood and lethargy.
The Olympic village is littered with inappropriate foods for a hockey players diet. In the dinning hall there is a plethora of cakes and pastries on offer, 24 hours a day, ranging from Black Forest Gateaux to Portuguese Tarts. Scattered around the village are temporary snack huts. These provide take-away sandwiches, coffee and cakes fro athletes and coaches on the run. You can’t walk more than 30 metres without coming across a muffin, cakes or biscuit. The real nightmare situation is that it’s all FREE! Imagine walking into Tesco and helping yourself to anything on offer 24 hours a day.
So how do we resist the temptation? Discipline is crucial. I am well aware of how I feel if I give in to the cycle of sugar highs and sugar lows. After a game, there is nothing wrong with a small treat, especially if you are trying to replenish energy levels quickly. Picking and choosing the correct times to indulge is about understanding your body and understanding how your body responds to foods. All it takes is a little education and a lot of listening!