Sport Performance Nutrition

Over the years I’ve worked with many exceptional athletes and it’s always exciting to watch their careers grow. Years ago I met Jasper Blake, a Canadian Ironman Champion, who was achieving some amazing results in his races. Jasper has an unmatched focus and infectious enthusiasm when it comes to sport performance (and life) and I was lucky to engage with him and other high-level triathletes during their competitive years.

Following athletes throughout their journey has been a major driving force of my career and I find it so motivating to be able to support their performance. So when Jasper asked me if I wanted to link up with him again in another venture, through B78 Multi-Sport Coaching, it felt like the right fit.

Maybe it’s because of my own experience from coxing in university and for Canada’s National Rowing team, or through my own personal interest in marathon running, but I feel so at home in sport performance. I’ve been working for 18 years as a Naturopathic Physician and Sport Performance provider (yes I know I look too young for that!) and I’m so glad to be part of the Canadian sport community. Nothing is better than helping athletes make performance gains and supporting them in reaching their goals. I currently split my time between working in my clinic, providing Sport Performance Nutrition for Rowing Canada, and working with individual high-performance athletes.

Working with athletes 
I’m often asked to describe the type of support I provide to the athletes I work with. Although every individual has a unique plan, I’m always focused on helping them move towards their highest potential. When I first meet with an athlete we do a thorough assessment of where they’re at in their journey. This involves looking closely at how they’re coping with the demands of their sport, and where their overall health levels is at, combined with both their short and long performance goals. From here we decide where the best place is to start.

Many times I am looking to help make sure each athlete is adequately fuelled for the demands they are placing on their body. For instance, are they eating enough of the good stuff, ensuring that they are fueling around their sessions but also varying for variety. I want to make sure they are in the best position to achieve their goals and live a fully healthy life.

Having proper nutrition is a key pillar when it comes to seeing performance gains. Since the physical purpose of training is to challenge the body and trigger it to adapt, most aspects of a training plan have a training stimulus in mind. The nutrition guidance I provide is there to support each athlete and allow this adaptation to unfold. If an athlete is low on nutrients and has run their body to a deficient place, this causes the adaptation to be compromised.

Recipe Inspiration Example

The importance of proper nutrition
This’s why it’s so important to appreciate how the body is focused on the effort required when it is being active and exercising. Then when that activity finishes, the body has to switch to a new set of priorities – namely restore and repair. But effort still needs to be given to digest, think, and support all of the other systems of the body. So you can see that if the body is working overtime to adapt and support an athlete during training, it needs to be fueled with proper nutrition.

One very interesting area of research and interest to me is the concept of low energy availability. I actually think in addition to its importance in sport performance, low energy availability can generally compromise human health. Addressing it is a crucial pillar to mitigating what I can health drift.

In the study of energy availability, the number of calories consumed is reviewed and compared with the caloric demands of exercise, activities of daily living and the metabolic needs. The calories burned during exercise are subtracted and what’s left is the energy available to drive metabolism and body health. If there is too wide of a deficit, or periods of time with too much depletion, then there can be a relative drop in the metabolic rate, sex hormones, thyroid hormone, digestive and immune health.

During my years working in high-level sport performance, and maybe even more when I am asked to work with recreational athletes or sporting groups, people always want to know about ergogenic aids, or electrolytes. But these usually aren’t that important and most of the time they would be best served by getting the base down. In Naturopathic Medicine we call this the therapeutic order. In simple terms it means to not worry about the cherry on top if you don’t have the cake made. Take care of eating appropriate amounts at the right time, tune up your system, and fill up your bucket adequately so that you can support your development and move with ease towards your goals.

Working with B78
In my work with B78 athletes I’m often creating individualized meal plans. My usual modus operandi, athlete-to-athlete, is to help teach the concepts of good nutrition for health and sport performance. When I do this well, people can think without me being by their side and then we can focus on building their knowledge together.

Sample week of individualized fuel

Many times, however, active people live full lives and find themselves on the go. This is compounded with their high nutritional needs, and so providing an individualized meal plan can be valuable to  set their framework. Check out the sample meal plan I’ve included above – it shows an overview of one week that we’ve planned out for an athlete who trains 10 times per week, expending a significant amount of energy every session. Each week comes with a week at a glance for the meals and snacks, a grocery list and all the recipes. For some people it is also fun to be inspired by some new recipes and tasty ideas.

There is a science and art to sport performance nutrition delivery, and knowing which cards to play first while still being able to see the forest from the trees, is my forte. My goal it to work alongside people to help them grow their nutritional knowledge, and ensure they’re fueling properly so their bodies can keep up with the challenges they’re facing day in and day out. Nothing is better than making a difference and seeing results that take you to the next level – if you’d like to work with me, get in touch.