Clean Sport Week 2021
Student Q&A: Let’s talk nutrition and clean sport
Meagan Botha is a 2nd-year BSc Science of Sport Performance student. Meagan has a keen interest in athlete well-being, clean sport, and sport psychology. She has been helping to coordinate our programme of activities in support of UKAD’s Clean Sport Week 2021. This article captures her Q&A with Cameron Blake.
Cameron is an Alumnus of the Carnegie School of Sport. He received an undergraduate degree in Sport and Exercise Science and then completed a Masters in Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Since completing his MSc, Cameron has spent six months supporting Leeds United Academy as Team Nutritionist. In his spare time, he is an accomplished cyclist and competed with the prologue performance cycling team.
Can you tell me about your journey to becoming Team Nutritionist at Leeds United Academy?
After studying Sport and Exercise Science, I recognised I had a passion for Sports Nutrition. So, I applied for a Masters at Leeds Beckett University, and once accepted, I jumped face-first into the course and joined the applied practice programme offered by the university. This provides students with an opportunity to support practitioners in a range of professional environments. I spent time at a soccer academy, Bradford City Football Club, supported a cycle tourer, and a race across America Athlete. Following my degree, I took up the Sports Nutrition position within the Academy at Leeds United.
In your current role, can you explain how you work with the athletes?
It is a bit like I’m a coach, a nutrition coach, and I try to shape the behaviours and attitudes towards food across the athletes. I want them to have an interest in food from an early age and develop healthy eating habits across their life span. A lot of the athletes won’t stay with Leeds United forever and, so we are trying to create responsible adults capable of eating well when they transition out of the football environment.
What lessons have you learnt from your role that you embed into your own sporting performance?
Beginning to prioritise fuelling my rides with food has improved my cycling performance. I would put the developments I have seen in my performance over the past year down to nutrition.
Considering nutrition, what advice do you have for our student-athletes?
Ahead of a hard training session, think about preparing your body with foods such as a big bowl of porridge, yoghurt, fruit, and honey. In your evening meal, you could have a piece of steak and sweet potato wedges. Ensure that you have variety in your diet, eat the rainbow, and have a variety of protein sources such as fish and dairy products. This will make sure you are ready to train the next day. The biggest lesson is to make sure you eat for today and prepare for tomorrow. If you can develop these habits now, they will help you progress as an athlete.
Unfortunately, sport is plagued by scandals around doping what are your thoughts on this?
I think there is potentially certain things going on where people are trying to bend the rules, maybe around elements such as Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs). I have heard rumours about people I compete against. So, I think it would be worthwhile setting up doping control at local events.
For me, there is something nice about achieving through natural progression and not cheating the system. If I started winning races and people were pointing fingers at me and asking, “what is that guy on?”, that would be hurtful for me as an athlete, as I know I am clean, and it is all down to hard work and applying the knowledge acquired through my studies to myself.
What things can you do as a practitioner to educate young people around clean sport?
While some people get home from work and their job is done, I need to view my role as more of an education platform and keep my nutrition hat on even when I finish my job. So, when I rush to the Brownlee centre, I should be thinking about who can I positively influence. For instance, a young junior at my cycling club pulled out a high-5 gel the other day at training. When this happens, I could ask why have you brought a gel for the session? Why not have a packet of jelly babies in your back pocket instead?
Athletes often are caught inadvertently doping due to supplements, so what advice can you provide around this?
It is about reassuring athletes that you don’t need supplements to be a good athlete, a great athlete, or even a world-class athlete you can get all of your fuel from food. However, if you do have a deficiency that requires supplementation, it is important to check that your supplements are batch tested. This doesn’t mean that it contains the Informed Sport logo, as these logos can be fake. It is important that you check on the Informed Sport website if you are in the UK.
Food First - Banana Oat Energy Bites
To support our student athletes, Lauren Delany (PhD Student and Leeds Rhinos Nutritionist) has shared an easy recipe for making energy bites to fuel your performance.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtDDPqzvS9g