Do Sport Nutritionists Practice What They Preach?

a pile of fruit

Sport nutrition is a key piece of training and recovery for athletes in their quest to be the best they can be and achieve success on the podium. But athletes often wonder – do nutritionists practice what they preach? What do they like to eat? How do they balance a busy lifestyle with eating well?

We sat down with Canadian Sport Institute Ontario’s three Sport Nutritionists – Nicole Springle, and new members of the CSIO Sport Nutrition team, Christine St. Clair and Christine Dziedzic to find out!

Nicole Springle = NS | Christine St. Clair = CSC | Christine Dziedzic = CD

1. With your busy work schedule, do you still find time to train?

  • NS: You can always make time if you want to… I often read research articles on the elliptical if I’m really strapped, so I can justify taking the time out.
  • CSC: I aim for 3-4 gym workouts (strength/cardio) and 1-2 sport activities per week. How consistently this occurs depends on travel and workload.

2. Do you follow any particular eating style?

  • NS: I try to practice what I preach – regular balanced meals and snacks, lots of variety, whole foods, fibre and protein rich, tons of veggies, and of course the occasional treat!

3. What are the 3 most important nutrition tips you could give to an athlete?

  • NS:
  1. Have a plan… and then a back-up for when things don’t go as planned, because they rarely do!
  2. Make sure to have sources of both carbohydrate and protein at snacks to ensure that your blood sugars are maintained and you feel satisfied. Portions and sources of these will vary depending on training and the individual, but both should be present.
  3. Find the foods that work for you, give you energy, and taste great – nutrition is a part of your training, but it should be an enjoyable part!

4. How has advice on nutrition for athletes changed across the period of your dietetic career?

  • NS: I used to believe that every athlete needed to be on a high carb diet. Experience has taught me nutrition targets should be periodized according to the athlete’s training plan and reflect their individual needs and preferences.
  • CD: It’s moved from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ mentality to highly individualized advice. I think the importance of a ‘periodized’ eating plan has become just as important as periodizing a training program. And we’ve found out more about the way certain nutrients or components of food can support or enhance other aspects of managing athlete performance, such as during injury/rehab, to improve training adaptation or strengthen immunity.

5. Favourite breakfast?

  • NS: Eggs with salsa, guacamole, whole grain toasts and a big pile of sautéed kale
  • CSC: Natural peanut butter on whole grain bread with half a banana sliced on top and coffee!!
  • CD: Porridge with slivered almonds in winter; muesli with yogurt and berries in summer; blueberry pancakes with fruit salad as a treat!

6. Favourite lunch?

  • NS: I’m a salad girl – but I like to mix it up! Some type of protein, a grain and whatever seasonal veggies I found at the market – all in!
  • CD: Mixed salad leaves with caramelised balsamic vinegar, tomato, avocado, tabouli and a dollop of cottage cheese, with a couple of crackers with hummus.

7. Favourite dinner?

  • NS: Salmon with maple glaze, mashed sweet potato and wilted spinach, and finished off with a piece (or two) of dark chocolate… of course!
  • CD: Not necessarily favourite in terms of ‘fancy’, but a 5 min ‘go-to’ – tuna and vegetable couscous with a honey-soy sauce.

8. Favourite recovery snack?

  • NS: Chocolate peanut butter recovery shake! I used to dream about it during the last kilometre of my long runs!
  • CSC: Greek yogurt and fresh fruit (raspberries!)!

9. What’s your favourite meal on the run (i.e. when eating outside the home)?

  • NS: I love Fresh! Really anything from there. I would eat there every day, but I’d go broke!
  • CSC: Egg spinach wrap from Starbuck’s.

10. Favourite recipe book or source of recipes on the net?

  • NS: Oh She Glows recipe book and blog. Although I’m an omnivore I have a thing for vegan cookbooks, it’s weird! I think it’s because they are so creative with the use of legumes and veggies and the pictures on this blog make everything look amazing!!
  • CSC: The cookspiration app from Dietitians of Canada – www.cookspiration.com

11. Anyone or group you follow on Twitter for sports nutrition info?

  • CSC: SDA, Nancy Clark, Louise Burke, and PINES

12. Finish this sentence. I am passionate about nutrition…

  • NS: …because I believe that there is always room for improvement. We are always learning more and more about our bodies and the way that whole, nutritious foods are capable of providing not only the best nutrients to fuel performance, but to improve our health on the whole!
  • CD: …because I believe that a healthy relationship with food makes life sweeter.