Athletes at any level, whether they are an Olympian or a community level footballer, need to fuel their body to maximise performance. This fuel comes in the form of proper nutrition and knowing the right time to eat certain foods.

Kristen is an accredited sports dietitian and is the dietitian for the Carlton AFLW team. She spoke to the Carlton College of Sport students about athlete nutrition, as well as general tips for good eating habits.

Dietitians in sport

As a dietitian for a football club, Kristen has a range of roles and responsibilities including:

  • Food service/menu planning
    • Game day nutrition and hydration
    • Recovery nutrition
    • Supplements
    • Dietary requirements
    • Travel
  • Injury management and prevention
    • Nutrition to manage existing injuries and prevent injuries occurring
  • Body composition assessment
  • Nutrient deficiencies, maintaining energy levels and well-being

Another key component of her role at the club is education around food and nutrition.

“There is a lot of nutrition information out there, and a lot of it isn’t accurate,” she said.

Her goal is to give players enough information and education to form good eating habits and bust some myths around dieting fads that will not help with performance on field.


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Why is nutrition important for performance?

To talk about why nutrition is so important for athletes, Kristen compares them to a Formula 1 racing car.

“You can have an awesome coach and a great team behind you with a powerful engine, but if you’re not fuelling efficiently and effectively during that race, you’re not going to finish the race or perform,” Kristen said.

Poor nutrition in athletes can lead to:

  • Fatigue
  • Impaired performance
  • Increased risk of injury
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Lack of enjoyment and reduced mood
  • Poor immunity

Key principles of sports nutrition

Kristen walked through a usual game day and what she would recommend an athlete eats before, during and after a game.

  • Fuel (before event)
    • Foods high in carbohydrates and low in fat
      • Fresh fruit
      • Toast/rice cakes
      • Smoothies
  • Recharge (during event)
    • Maintain energy levels by consuming small amounts of simple sugars, and replace electrolytes through salt and fluids
      • Fresh fruit
      • Pretzels, rice crackers
      • Electrolyte based sports drink
      • Water
  • Recover (post-event)
    • Refuel, repair, restore
    • Foods high in carbohydrates with moderate protein
      • Protein shake
      • Small meal (burrito, sushi, pizza)

Isolation eating

With more people working from home and spending more time in your home than ever before, it’s natural that we are gravitating towards our fridges and pantries more to satisfy our cravings.

Kristen had a few tips to help us to be more mindful about how often we seek out food and what to snack on.

Tip 1: Plan your snacks! Be consciously aware of what you’re going to eat during the day, rather than having a ‘snack-cident’.

Tip 2: Write a food diary to be more aware of the food decisions you’re making throughout the day.

Tip 3: Have healthy snacks readily available. Some examples:

  • Crackers with hummus
  • Avocado and vegemite on toast/rice crackers
  • Popcorn
  • Fresh fruit
  • Yoghurt

Follow Kristen on Instagram at @kptrainme for more nutrition tips and recipes.