Anne Marie Mulholland

Anne Marie Mulholland: Small changes, big rewards

NOW that we are coming into some down time after what can only be described as an atypical GAA season, it’s important to take time to reflect on the highs and lows of the last few months and consider how we can make improvements to specific elements of our game, so we are ready to hit the ground running over pre-season.

Take time to consider your proposed improvements as a player. Is it turning up to training on time? Getting a little more sleep? Trying to find a greater GAA/personal life balance? Working on a specific performance goal? Being more consistent with nutrition behaviours? Whatever it may be, it will of course be individual to you!

As athletes, it is common that you want to overhaul numerous elements in your life and performance, striving for excellence or perfection. But ask yourself this; how many elements are you trying to change all at once?

All too often we see players trying to make too many performance/lifestyle changes all in one go and not be able to stick to them in the long term when our lives get hectic – which is completely normal!

We are all human! And seeing this through my nutrition lens, this should be no different.

We don’t need to change all of those 10 suggested areas of our diet in one, for if we do, how likely will these changes be implemented long-term? And will they be sustainable for the player?

In my opinion, that’s highly unlikely.

We commonly try to overwhelm ourselves by aiming for our end goals immediately, rather than taking each element one by one and slowly building upon them, instilling lifelong nutritional habits.

By making one small change at a time, over time small changes equal big results, and don’t forget it.

Have a think about the one small dietary change that you could focus on over the next few weeks to impact your performance and how you could best nail it down. Once you have it nailed down, aim to tackle the next. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Slow and steady wins the race, remember.

To get you started, I have highlighted a few behaviours that commonly pop up among players, with suggested ways of tackling these challenges head on. And remember, we don’t need to tackle all of these challenges at once, so target the one area most relevant to you and take it from there:

Do you struggle to fuel around training due to your working day? Try packing high carbohydrate (energy) snacks in your car for a quick fuel hit before training. Rice cakes, cereal bars, pancakes, fruit loaf or fruit. It can be more straight forward than we think. Once you have given this a trial for week one, try to be more consistent on week two and take it from there.

Are you avoiding post exercise nutritional recovery because you struggle with food after exercise? Try liquid-based recovery options such as milk with whey protein, a greek yoghurt with granola or a protein milk with some fruit. Keep it light and simple, and most importantly to your tolerance. If you are travelling a distance to training- remember to pack your car/kit bag in preparation for this.

What about fruit and vegetables? Are they limited in your diet? If it is taste or texture that is a challenge, why not try a daily smoothie adding at least two fruit or veg? One handful of frozen berries, a banana, a handful of spinach and milk makes a very tasty smoothie I must say (and includes three of your five a day, they are high fibre and a great energy kick around training). Top tip: mix up your ingredients on a daily basis to avoid flavour fatigue.

Is hydration your biggest challenge? Take a refillable water bottle with you to work in the morning and aim to have it empty by lunch. Refill again and aim to have empty by dinner. Set yourself targets throughout the day to help you along. And if it is taste that gets boring- add some lemon or lime to your water or a dash of dilute juice. Keep it exciting.

Are you skipping meals due to a hectic schedule? Can you be a little more prepared? Try to cook an extra portion at dinner the evening before and box up for a super easy lunch at work or for your dinner the next evening. It will save you time and make sure you are getting a variety of nutrients in to support the demands of your training.

Is that student budget preventing you from eating a balanced diet? Make a shopping list of necessities at the beginning of the week to prevent you being tempted for random purchases when in the shop. Go for ‘own brand’ options when able as they are typically cheaper and go for frozen and tinned vegetables/legumes to save the pennies. We don’t need to spend extra money when it isn’t required!

For those players taking creatine, are you always being consistent with dosage? Remember, for creatine to elicit optimal effect, we must take our maintenance dose daily (3-5g). Try taking your creatine at the same time daily i.e. first thing in the morning or just before bed (on both training and non-training days) to avoid forgetting and missing your daily intake.

If the above aren’t challenges you currently face, take the time to identify your barriers and come up with viable solutions, it’s down to you. And remember, simply one change over time equals big results, so don’t overwhelm yourself.

Keep it simple. Train smart. Eat smart. Perform better.

And as usual, for more recipes and nutrition related content, follow my

Instagram @theperformancedietitian.

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