Olympian, Kayla Imrie, on Nutrition and Performance
A great athlete is, first and foremost, a very healthy person
I believe anyone competing at the elite level of sport cannot be deemed a “normal” person. It took me a while to grasp this concept that I, myself am an elite sportsperson and have found in the past that following a normal person's dietary requirements just isn’t enough.
Since working with Gary I have learned the importance of certain foods to enhance my training and performance. It has proven worthy shown through improvement in my race performance from international age group racing to the Rio Olympics within 2 years.
My training program consists of 14-16 sessions 6 days a week so being able to keep my body performing at a high level with speedy recovery is extremely important. Gary has a deeper understanding of my nutritional needs through the use of lab tests which then allows him to individualise nutritional support catered to my needs. Since working with him the biggest change I have seen is my advanced ability to recover from tough training blocks.
If you are looking to excel your sporting performance to the next level Gary is hands down the man to see!!
Kind regards, Kayla
Kayla has always been a pleasure to work with. Her dedication to excellence is second to none, as is her inquiring mind and willingness to consider ideas that may sometimes go against convention. Kayla will continue to improve as an athlete. She will go from strength to strength. There is no question about that.
When it comes to Olympics and world championship canoe racing the difference between winning and losing may be little more than a heart-beat or two over the distance. Merely copying what her opponents are doing nutritionally is not going to cut it - doing so merely flatters them. To beat them a smart athlete does the best that her opponents may be doing while identifying those little things deep within herself and unique to her that make the difference.
What Kayla has to say about nutrition being one of the central foundations to peak athletic performance is absolutely spot-on. As I said, starting this conversation, "a great athlete is, first and foremost, a very healthy person".
Kayla walks this talk. She sure looks really healthy and - guess what - her performance on the water bears this out.
This rule for enduring and peak performance also applies to you, whether you are preparing for the Olympics, to have a family or to have a long, enjoyable and productive life. Getting your basic nutrition right is the key.
The nutrition profession, including their training, has been hijacked by the food industry which wants an athlete to consume more of their depleted foods, such as the sugar-saturated muesli bar. Getting an athlete's basic nutrition right is the base of the foundation for the pyramid of performance: the broader and stronger the base, the higher the peak will be. That is not hard to understand and a rule that can not be broken without there being consequences. Applying it is the hard part and the experts can get it very wrong.
The big mistake is to bypass a young athlete's basic needs and go immediately to the performance-enhancing short-cuts such as dosing the athlete to the eyeballs with caffeine, whacking in a whole lot of gut-churning baking soda before a race, or giving large doses of creatine - while giving a near-useless multivitamin and a protein drink and thinking that's that - job done!
If that is not enough, then there are the asthma meds ("speed") and a good dose of pre-competition anti-inflammatories (God forbid!). Not to mention the steroids that a young athlete can obtain with relative ease from sources as close as their gym's personal trainer, or over the internet. These shortcuts may give a near-immediate performance gain but they are unethical or borderline so, and the athlete's career will be more that of a shooting star than one that glitters above for near eternity.
Much of the guessing is taken out of an athlete's nutrition plan by first completing an Interclinical Laboratories Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis which provides a wealth of information about an athlete's nutritional status, as well as organ health. If signs and symptoms warrant, a blood test for food allergies may be completed, and we sometimes do a lab test for adrenal function. You'd be surprised at what turns up. For example, we may discover that an athlete is allergic to whey protein, or sometimes bananas - and how many athletes are instructed by their sports nutritionist to consume more of these? Who says that this or that food is best for an individual athlete?
Food pyramids, or any kind of one-size-fits-all nutrition guidelines may be misleading and unhelpful. Each and every athlete has many things about them that is unique. Some need more magnesium, some less calcium, some need more iron while many need less. Some metabolise carbohydrates better, while others will thrive better on saturated fats and less carbohydrate. Without doing the right testing a nutritionist is unable to do a good job and may actually end up compromising the athlete's performance.
As you will gather, Kayla has been at this for a very long time and - gosh - has she put in the work and shown real stickability! I've been at it with her since 2009. Her wonderful parents had the foresight and the good sense to ensure that a strong nutritional foundation was in place from an early age. We have been ramping things up now that she is coming nearer the really serious end of the process. Becoming an Olympian is never an overnight thing and there sure are no ethical shortcuts.
Thankyou for writing, Kayla, there are lessons here for all. Paddle well!