An interview with Olympic hammer thrower, jillian weir. Comments by Sam Bourne, POW Food Head Nutritional Therapist.
Name: Jillian Weir
Sport: Hammer Throw
1. Have you used / are you using a sports nutritionist to help support your performance in tennis training? (any off season/ on season difference?)
Jillian: Yes, I have used a sports nutritionist before. Currently we have Jennifer Sygo, our Athletics Canada team nutritionist, here with us at our training camp in Gifu, Japan as we are preparing for the Olympic Games. She is helping us stay properly fueled and hydrated during and after training sessions with the help of protein powders, electrolytes, etc. Jennifer also works with the hotel to schedule the menus for all of our team meals. We have had a decent variety of options which has been good.
This is great that Jill has access to good nutrition. I think personal nutrition education is the best tool for health as the athlete can make the dietary decisions that are best for them even when a nutritionist is present. Sports nutrition is vital for training and performance, but personal nutrition guards your health and well-being.
2. Do you follow any well known diets or notice any differences in performance, muscle recovery, mental clarity, appetite, sleep, workout intensity or duration when you're eating 'well' vs eating 'junk'?
Jillian: There is not much difference for me between in-season/off-season nutrition and I do not follow any "well known diets." I tend to go for the healthier options year-round especially if I am getting ready for a competition as I do feel a difference from when I am eating more nutritious foods as opposed to fast food, junk food, and takeaway. I normally cook for myself but I do enjoy going out for a good burger and fries, ordering pizza, and Mexican, Asian, or Indian food every now and then (maybe two or three times a month). If I am eating out I want to get something that I wouldn't make for myself.
Nutrition plays such a key role in cell health and I would advise any athlete to get a nutritional evaluation and a gut test to check that they are in fact getting the nutrition they need from their diet. Muscle health and energy depends on what can be absorbed and utilised by the body. Energy can be affected by excess carbs and proteins, poor dietary fats and dairy. I know it is vital to get enough fuel and protein from the diet, but digestion and the digestive organs like the liver, the pancreas and the kidneys need to be supported and cleansed. Taking some time ‘off season’ when Jill is not training, to do some digestive cleansing and resetting the microbiome may help performance later. I also advise that attention should be paid to the healthy food plate percentages which advocates for 50% to be plant-based foods even when having to consume more than the average person
3. Can you tell me your typical go to meals when you're training, compared to everyday life (if there is a difference)? For breakfast / lunch / dinner / snacks?
Jillian: A regular breakfast for me would be something light if I have a morning training session as I do not like to train on a full stomach but I do need some food before working out. For example, some combination of the following; a piece or two of toast or a bagel, a banana, greek yogurt or a protein drink. After my morning training session I will have a protein or recovery drink then go home and have a bigger breakfast with one or two of options previously listed plus eggs, avocado toast, sometimes bacon, and I also like to make fruit smoothies with yogurt and spinach.
I agree with Jill that training on a full stomach is not ideal. Consuming something that is high in calories, small in size and does not make too much demand on digestion is best just before training. Bear In mind that anything with fats and proteins will take a while to digest so these elements are best used to slow the digestion of faster release carbohydrates. The pre – exercise snack should consist of carbohydrates, easy to digest fats and slower release sugars like dates. For example: an apple with pumpkin seeds or walnuts, or an energy ball made from Coconut oil, oats and dates, semi-ripe banana (better for gut) and handful of cashew nuts. A protein drink or yogurt will not be easy on digestion and not release enough energy quickly.
Jillian: For lunch I enjoy having either a hearty salad with a mix of vegetables, avocado toast, a sandwich with salami and cheese, or leftovers from a previous night's dinner.
To keep inflammation down so that you can work at peak performance, my advice would be to not eat processed pink meats and avoid cheese unless it is goat’s feta or cheese. Salads are a great way to increase fibre and leafy vegetables, this is the kind I advise: Chopped salad using red cabbage, shredded carrots, raw broccoli, a little red onion, chicory leaves, olive oil, apple cider vinegar. Try not to eat too many tomatoes as these are high in histamine. A little amount of avocado can be helpful in absorbing nutrients, but these are high in histamine and can add to inflammation if you are sensitive to histamine and I find that athletes generally are as their immune systems are under a lot of pressure from training. You can add pumpkin seeds, papaya, raw peas, spouted pulses and seeds to pad salads out. Shrimp, organic chicken, salmon are all great in a salad. You can also add cooked quinoa as this not only adds fibre and carbs but high-quality protein too.
Jillian: Regular dinner for me would be rice or pasta, a protein (I usually switch between chicken, beef, and shellfish), and some veggies (I like all vegetables).
- It makes sense that Jill consumes high energy foods as she is using so much energy. Variety is key here as she will get more nutrients. She should try different forms of rice, like brown, black, red. She can also use rice products like rice and quinoa pasta for example is a better choice for increasing protein and nutrients. Wholegrain pasta or even homemade pasta is a good energy choice but loading up gluten can affect joint health and reduce energy by increasing inflammation. Everyone has a sensitivity to some degree to gluten it may be worth avoiding and using other carbs to see how she gets on.
- Potatoes are a great source of energy and fibre. The healthiest way is to steam and cool them and add them to salads or use in cooking like Spanish omelette. Cooled potatoes contain resistant starch which feed the healthy gut flora and a great way to support digestive health while training. I highly advise to increase all vegetables especially the dark leafy greens. The nutrients in these plant foods are vital for energy and recovery.
4. Do your meals follow a macronutrient breakdown (Protein/Carb/Fat ratio) on your meal time plates?
Jillian: In my event, the hammer throw, I am not one of the heaviest athletes so because I am a bit undersized I don't have to watch my caloric intake very carefully and it is ok if my weight fluctuates slightly. I weigh myself often when I am in the gym so I know if I am fueling adequately to maintain my weight depending on the training workload during any given time. In the pre-season training if we are working out a lot more then I am naturally more hungry as I am burning more calories and I will eat more.
Even when you need to eat more as an athlete to keep weight on for the sake of performance, you need to remember that we are ‘filtering’ all the foods that go through us. Even if your metabolism is burning these extra calories up, it leaves behind the metabolites of internal combustion and the by-products of breaking fats and proteins down. Our detoxification system and immune system constantly put out these fires, but you must support yourself with extra antioxidant both in terms of antioxidant foods and supplements. This why even athletes when they can in their off season time, do some light fasting.
5. Are there foods you will specifically consume or avoid when you're training?
Jillian: During longer training sessions I often will have a snack midway through such as a piece of fruit, a sports drink, a protein drink, a sports bar, etc
Healthy snacking is vital, many shop bought snacks and drinks do not stand up to scrutiny. Make you own energy balls and bars, you can add extra vitamin C, B vitamins and Vitamin D.
6. Do you take any natural supplements i.e. fish oils, magnesium, vitamin D etc.
Jillian: I have taken different supplements in the past like multivitamins and fish oil but currently I am only taking iron and creatine.
- I hope the iron that Jill is taking is a gentle one. Female athletes many need more iron at certain times in their cycle. Foods that are high in iron should be on their list of support foods. Like Dried apricots (organic so no sulphites), molasses, dates, figs and wholegrains.
- Vitamin C is vital for absorption of iron, it is also vital for immune support, tissue support, energy and to counteract the stress. I would also recommend Jill take a high-quality fish oil, a bio-magnesium. When Jill is consuming a lot of food to ‘Fuel’ and keep her weight it may help to take digestive enzymes.
7. What is your favourite post match meal or snack?
Jillian: I don't have a favourite post competition meal but pre-competition I enjoy having a pasta dish.
- I always think a nourishing meal is the best for recovery not just a carb heavy meal. If not vegan or veggie, then a dish like on the bone chicken hotpot or organic beef stew, or fish pie. Probably the best is chicken and shiitake soup with bone broth and butter beans.
- The reason being is the foods are so well cooked that the nutrient like minerals and proteins are very accessible and easily absorbed. You can add some raw green leaves.
Jillian: Enhanced Recovery (https://ersportsdrink.com) is a supporter of mine and I believe they have one of the most balanced recovery drinks on the market and I genuinely enjoy the taste.
Having checked out the ingredient in this product it seem like a good choice in a drink post exercise, however you can actually make your own but even better. For convenience I understand the need to have a ‘ready’ drink, but making your own can be easy. You do need to purchase the main ingredients, create a dry mix and just add fluids when you need to use a drink. My replacement for this would be:
- Take a high quality fish oil separately – it does not need to be in a recovery drink. Yes it does help very much but these oils cannot be immediately absorbed and need to go through digestion anyway.
- Use pumpkin seeds rather than sunflower seeds blend to a powder
- Choose a high-quality protein powder
- A grass-fed collagen powder
- Antioxidant powder – can be purple, red or green
- Add buffered Vitamin C powder
- Add MSM powder (methylsulfonylmethane) supports liver and all tissue ad joint health
- Blend all the above together place in sealed container, add to apple juice, water, smoothies etc.
You are much more in control of the quality and amounts if you do it yourself. Jillian is already taking carnitine and I advise that she takes a separate Vitamin D supplement of 2000-4000iu with Vitamin K2