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Sally Gunnell with torch

Eat like an athlete - Sally Gunnell


Olympic legend Sally Gunnell broke numerous records during her athletics career and is now one of the best-loved names in British sport. We asked Sally to divulge her training diet, guilty food pleasures and top tips for aspiring athletes...

What was your typical daily diet when training for the Olympics?


About 7am I would have porridge with mixed fruit or poached eggs on toast. Then about 11am a chicken sandwich with a smoothie.

Fruit & nut breakfast bowl

Something like a jacket potato with prawns.

Chicken stir-fry was always a popular choice!

Total calorie intake: I was never really on a calorie controlled diet, but I was always conscious not to consume more than I needed in order to perform to my full potential.

How did you keep your diet varied and did you ever get bored with eating for your sport?

I like to be inventive with my meals, I think it’s important to remember that eating healthily doesn’t necessarily mean having to have the same things over and over again. I always experiment with new recipes and ingredients, and focus on making simple food swaps to make meals healthier than the traditional recipes. This means I can still enjoy the dishes I love.

When I was training there were times that I would obviously have preferred to indulge in the occasional treat, but I was always aware that a healthy diet helped me train better and perform. Taking the time to make really nutritious and tasty meals helped to keep me motivated and therefore never felt boring or a struggle to eat.

What super food/juice/meal helps you get out of bed and motivated on those particularly dreary mornings?

I love to have healthy muffins in the morning – I make them myself so that I can pack them full of foods that I know will help me keep going until lunch. I use rolled oats, dried fruits such as dates, apricots and cranberries.

Fruitburst muffins

What’s your trusted snack for an energy boost?

Nuts or dried fruit - they provide a great mix of good fats and protein.

How did you stay hydrated when you were training?

Obviously drinking plenty of fluids is key, but sometimes this can lie quite heavily on the stomach, which isn’t ideal when training. Hydro-tabs offer great hydration and they’re basically calorie free, so I’d often use these to keep me going when doing long distance training.

What are your favourite food indulgences?

I don’t really have a sweet tooth, so I’ve never really had a problem with sweets and chocolate. I’d say my major vice is Chinese takeaway – I love crispy duck!

Crispy duck pancakes

What would be your top diet and exercise tip for the amateur athlete?

I think it’s really important to vary your training, otherwise it can get quite monotonous. I’d recommend cross training, so swapping between your favourite exercises such as running, swimming and cycling. This also means that you aren’t putting too much pressure on the same muscles all the time, which is crucial when training extensively.

Aside from your speciality, what is your favourite sport/exercise?

Now that I don’t train professionally any more, I love mixing up my routines with a little bit of everything. I live in a beautiful area of the countryside, so I try to make the most of my surroundings – these days my favourite exercises include going for bike rides with the kids and taking the dogs on long walks.

What is your favourite recipe from

I love this recipe for Lemon Cheesecake – it’s low in fat yet still a really delicious pudding.

Lemon quark cheesecake

Discover more diet secrets from top athletes in our eat like an athlete series.


Sally Gunnell, OBE is an ambassador for Lake District Dairy Co. Quark, the naturally fat-free dairy ingredient.

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