By Nico de Villiers
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Andy is a registered dietitian living and working in Johannesburg. She has always been passionate about the scientific side of nutrition as well as helping people implement sustainable changes in their lifestyle. Her need to learn more and know more pushed her to start her Master’s degree. In 2018, she completed her MSc. in Dietetics which has been published in the South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition. She spent the last 3 years working in product development at an international sports supplement company, which led her to work with the DHL Stormers, Orlando Pirates, and other sports teams. She loves running, creating recipes, and the occasional G&T.

I met Andy earlier this year when we were discussing the development of a new product with our supplement supplier. Good sports nutritionists are hard to come across in this country and getting an interview done is even harder and long overdue

 

rugbyscsaWhat are some of the biggest challenges facing sports dieticians today?

AB: Dietitians study a BSc. degree with either honors or post-graduate qualification in Dietetics and I find that the current curriculum does not cover many necessary aspects of sports nutrition. It is a very clinical-based degree. A big challenge for Dietitians who are interested in sports nutrition is further qualifying themselves and broadening their horizons through self-study and experience in the sporting sphere. There are so many aspects to sports nutrition and it’s important to learn as much as possible about every sport to allow for an individualized and calculated approach.

 

rugbyscsa: Does your approach vary based on an athlete’s given sport?

AB: Absolutely. I would not take the same approach for two different sports, for example – a soccer player has different needs for a rugby player. Body composition and size requirements also depend on the position the athlete plays. There are aspects which can be used universally, such as nutrients to promote recovery such as antioxidants however a unique approach should be taken per sport, a position as well as body composition and performance goals

 

rugbyscsa: How has your approach to nutrition changed over the years?

AB: I have become more open to various dietary adaptations. I have never agreed with a “blanket-approach” when it comes to nutrition as I feel that a player or athlete should also believe in their nutrition regimen for it to be a sustainable mental game is just as important. In saying that, there are always better choices and options to certain diets, however, I always consider the athlete’s preferences. I also think nutrition has come a long way – there are so many interventions that we can investigate these days, for example, DNA analysis for dietary interventions as well as nutraceuticals to improve recovery, mental focus, and overall health. 

 

rugbyscsa: What are some of the biggest misconceptions that rugby players have regarding nutrition?

ABIn my opinion, a lot of rugby players are under the impression that you need to restrict certain nutrients and food groups such as sugar and fat which are often deemed as unhealthy to achieve perfect nutrition. When in fact, rugby players should utilize all food groups in moderation to achieve nutrition goals, better food choices, and nutrient timing play a role here too.

 

rugbyscsa: What’s the easiest thing to correct nutrition-wise?

AB: Nutrition timing is an important and easy aspect to implement in one’s diet. Fuelling your body with the correct types and amounts of macronutrients around your training and games is simple and effective for improving performance and recovery.

 

rugbyscsa: What are the five best foods to incorporate into your diet?

AB: This is a tough one as I don’t like categorizing foods as good and bad, but if I had to choose foods that are important in the diet of a rugby player I’d say:

  • Lean protein sources (chicken, fish, eggs, meat, whey protein, beans).
  • Wholegrain carbohydrates (brown rice, legumes, barley, wholewheat pasta, potato).
  • Antioxidants (colorful fruit and vegetables, nuts, and certain herbs like turmeric).
  • Water (not food but an important nutrient for hydration, recovery, and overall health).
  • Fats (best to choose unsaturated fats and sources that are high in omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids).

 

rugbyscsa:  What’s one change an athlete can make to their nutrition plan that will get the best results?

AB: Eating a variety of foods from different groups daily allows for the uptake of valuable nutrients that improve health markers and prevent nutrient deficiency. Don’t cut out any food groups, just make better-informed choices when it comes to selecting food options.

 

rugbyscsa: What nutrition trends are you paying attention to?

AB: I find the keto diet interesting – there are varying opinions on the effects of a keto-based diet on sports performance. Many people agree that a diet including carbohydrates is important for long haul endurance and strength, however, there is evidence to show that higher fat, low carb diet could improve body composition and energy levels. Scientific evidence is still limited in recommending the keto diet during a high-intensity sport such as rugby. I have also had a lot of queries on a plant-based diet in sport (especially following the Game Changers documentary), and while I agree that eating more plant foods is beneficial to health and the environment, the sheer volume of protein a rugby player requires would be difficult to meet with a vegan diet and both vitamin and mineral supplementation would be mandatory. I am never opposed to experimenting with different diets in the sports sphere, however, it is important to look at the holistic picture when making recommendations.

 

rugbyscsa: What are your current go-to resources for educating yourself?

AB: It is important to keep up to date with information from reputable and relevant sources. I read up on a lot of scientific articles and blogs from renowned figures in the industry and always check credentials before taking advice. There is a lot of misinformation out there so it’s good to be cautious about your sources! 

Websites I like to get information from: 

https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/ (very nice site with relevant and new information by sports dietitians)

https://jissn.biomedcentral.com 

https://www.cardiffsportsnutrition.co.uk/

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/blog 

 

rugbyscsa: Where can people find you if they want to learn more

AB: Social handles:

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