Meet Sam McHaffie, Performance Nutritionist working with Everton Ladies FC. He tells us a little about himself, his passion for sport, health and fitness and how the correct food and hydration are essential to maintain peak performance in top level sport.
I grew up enjoying sport and knew that I wanted to work in elite sport in some capacity.
During my Sports Science degree I was inspired by two of my lecturers who work as nutritionists. This led me to a Masters in Sports Nutrition which gave me the important professional accreditation (SENr) to start working
As part of my Masters, I spent an evening a week with the Everton Ladies FC team . The following season the team went professional and this led to a job offer as their nutritionist.
Everton Ladies FC
Everton Ladies FC are in the top flight of women’s football, playing each team in the league twice each season, as well as competing in both the Continental Cup and the main FA Cup. Getting to the semi-finals of the FA Cup last year was a huge achievement – not quite Wembley, but so close.
My role is to ensure the team are achieving their personal nutritional goals in order to maintain peak performance. This primarily involves tracking body composition, having meetings with the players, agreeing targets and putting plans together. It is very individualised, with body composition, age and playing position all determining factors in their personal plan. I also monitor injured players closely, making sure they are eating optimally to assist their rehabilitation.
Eat a Rainbow
For team sports, it is important to monitor the intake of the three macrOnutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fat. Protein intake is recommended at 2g – 2.5g per kg of body weight each day, every day. Carbohydrates vary between 2g – 8g per kg of body weight. If it is match day, or a high training day the intake will be much higher than on rest days. Quality intake is also key. Slow release carbs, e.g. wholemeal foods, will sustain energy over a longer period. When it comes to fat intake, again it is the quality of fat that is all important – unsaturated fats as opposed to saturated fats – for example, avocados, nuts, oily fish are all healthy sources of fats.
When it comes to fruit and veg it would be very difficult to eat too much. The NHS recommend 5 portions a day, but other countries, such as Australia, put that higher at 8 portions a day. Eating fruit and veg varying in colours is a good principle to follow, as a range of colours ensures a variety of different i vitamins and minerals are eaten. A good rule of thumb is our recommendation to ‘Eat a Rainbow a Day’.
A good, well-balanced diet has a huge impact on performance. As well as effecting body composition and energy levels, it plays a vital role in improving recovery after matches and training sessions.
In sport, as in life, it is vitally important to keep well hydrated as the make up of the human body is up to 60% water, and every cell in the body is dependent on water. Drinking enough water is particularly important in the 24 hours prior to a match. If a player is de-hydrated just before a match, by that point it is too late to hydrate. We pay careful attention to signs of de-hydration – nausea, headaches and dizziness caused by low blood pressure, or an inability to sweat.
During a match the ladies drink to thirst and use sports drinks to stock up on carbohydrates. Electrolyte tablets are also useful in order to replace salts lost through sweating.
How could Aquarate help athletes?
There are some peak performance sports, such as road cycling, or boxing competitions, where I could easily see how the type of fluid balance offered by Aquarate could be advantageous. The challenge in any sport would be ensuring that the athlete was drinking from Aquarate’s cup in order to get accurate recordings.
Sam is happy to chat about sports-related issues and answer any of your questions around the importance of good nutrition. He has clients ranging from individuals running their first marathon, those who simply want to improve their health and well-being, amateur sports clubs as well as professional athletes.
Aquarate understands the importance of accurate fluid balance monitoring in fitness, sport, hospitals and care home settings. Read more about Aquarate’s products here.