Alex Danson made her senior international debut at just 16. The Hampshire-born athlete shares her top nutrition tips for training and tells us how she stays on top form as a vegetarian…
What is your typical daily diet when training for a big event?
Breakfast – I generally have porridge with two tbsp of flaxseed, seeds and fruit and a LARGE coffee.
Lunch – Beans and egg on wholemeal toast.
Dinner – My favourites are either omelette and steamed vegetables with jacket potato or something like jacket potato cheese and beans. I also love lentil burgers and vegetable stir-fry with Quorn.
How do you keep your diet varied and do you ever get bored with eating for your sport?
Because we are eating for performance it is very easy to just eat the same kinds of foods. I live with three other hockey girls so we take it in turns to cook sometimes, which means our diet is really varied. Adding things like nuts, chilli powder, garlic and ginger to foods is really healthy and can also dramatically change the taste of meals.
What super food/juice/meal helps you get out of bed and motivated on those particularly dreary mornings?
I have a large coffee made with skimmed milk each morning, which gives me a boost and a caffeine kick! If I have a really heavy day’s training ahead I will add poached eggs to my breakfast for a quick protein top-up.
What’s your trusted snack for an energy boost?
I often have energy bars for a boost and many are high in protein too. Another trusted snack is natural yogurt with nuts and honey. I will also carry two or three pieces of fruit and a packet of oatcakes with me, just in case hunger hits.
How do you stay hydrated when training?
With hydration there’s no secret recipe really, it’s just a case of little and often. I will drink energy drinks during training and for the rest of the day I will just carry my water bottle around with me everywhere.
When competition season is over what are your favourite food indulgences?
Oooooh well, unfortunately our season is pretty much all year round now so our chances to indulge are fairly slim! I have a sweet tooth though so just cannot resist the temptation for a homemade rhubarb crumble with custard. Yum!
What would be your top diet and exercise tip for the amateur athlete?
Recovery! This is essential for all athletes no matter what you do. Train harder than you think possible and then make sure you refuel with foods high in protein and carbs. If possible eat within 20 minutes after finishing exercise. Low-fat milk shakes are great and a couple of pieces of fruit and your body will recover far more quickly, ready for your next work out.
Aside from your speciality, what is your favourite sport/exercise?
I love anything outdoors but my real passions after hockey are surfing, climbing and cycling.
Do you follow any kind of special diet and if so what are the biggest challenges you face and how do you ensure you get all the nutrients you need?
I am a vegetarian and have been most of my life. This means getting good proteins into my diet is essential and I have to make sure I am getting the right amount. Dairy products, Quorn, tofu, beans, pulses, seeds and nuts will feature in pretty much every meal I have.
What is your favourite recipe from bbcgoodfood.com?
Vegetable tagine with chickpeas & raisins – delicious when you add a sprinkle of cashew nuts as well!
Uncover more diet secrets from top athletes in our eat like an athlete series.