Being Cooked For
It always seems like a real treat to have a nice meal cooked for you. I love going home for that simple reason. Having my mum cook me a really tasty meal can’t help but make me smile and never fails to cheer me up if I’m feeling down. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking but every now and again it’s nice to get a break from it.
One of the reasons I love doing my own cooking is the level of control it gives me as to what I am putting in to my body to keep me fit and healthy. It has always been a source of frustration when I am away with the British Cycling para-cycling team on a training or race camp that I lose that element of control as I have to rely on hotel chefs to prepare and cook my food. Yes the majority of the time, the food provided tastes good but it is not always healthy. Quite often we have been provided with meals that are rich with cream and butter, fried in lots of oil and most frustratingly, severely lacking on the vegetable front. We spend countless weeks preparing for major World Championships when we need to perform at our very best, making sure we keep our bodies well supplied with all the nutrients we need, and then we go out to the very important race and have to potentially eat food that could be detrimental to our performance, and even risk not being provided with enough. Athletes, in general, eat a lot! It’s something that when I first started cycling I really struggled with, as I thought I was being greedy and was too scared to put on weight. Now I’m far more comfortable with knowing how much I need and constantly am surprising people on how much such a small person can eat.
We do have nutritionists that try to make contact with hotel chefs and work with them to plan healthy meals to try and ensure we get what we need, but sometimes this hasn’t been very successful. People don’t really take kindly to being told what to do and that they have to change how they cook, I know I wouldn’t, and so quite often it doesn’t get received very well.
For the last Road World Championships in Italy 2018 and again this current Track World Championships in the Netherlands we have the incredible luxury of bringing our own chefs out with us to take over the hotel kitchen. For me, this is fantastic! It takes away so much of the stress and worry that I have about what I am eating. Also it means that we get to eat food that is both incredibly tasty and healthy. We can rest easy in the knowledge that the chefs understand the importance of good quality carbohydrate sources, a variety of fruits and vegetables, and making sure that all food is prepared in the cleanest environment, reducing the risk of any contamination and illness.
One of the best things that our chef makes is the overnight oats. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. On my pursuit race day, it is the last meal I will eat before I race and so it needs to be right. In the past, when we didn’t travel with the chefs I would take my own cereal with me to races and make my own version of overnight oats. This unfortunately relied on access to a fridge which we didn’t always have. The version the chefs make is far nicer than any version I can make in a hotel bedroom. It is simply oats soaked in yogurt and some fresh fruit but it is so easy to eat and kind on your stomach, especially when you have race day nerves. It also provides plenty of readily available carbohydrates needed to fuel the racing or training that goes on that day.
The meals we are provided with generally consist of a soup option, 2-3 salad selections and 2-3 hot choices laid out in a buffet so we can have as little or as much as we wish. On the first night I had salmon with a chickpea and broccoli curry and rice. Lunch on Tuesday was an incredibly tasty chicken, apricot and almond pilau as well as a smoked salmon, avocado and couscous salad. Dinner was a chicken biryani with an amazing mix of roasted vegetables, including carrots, beetroot and I think celeriac. There was also fresh tuna steaks for extra protein. For dessert there is always a selection of fresh fruit with greek yogurt and honey and nuts to sprinkle over if you choose. The one down side to having the chefs out here is that all I can think about is food! When is my next meal? And what am I going to get? The anticipation kills me. But at least it stops me dwelling on racing and getting nervous.
Possibly my favourite meal from the last World Championships was the fresh tuna kedgeree we had one night. One of my favourite meals to make is a smoked haddock kedgeree, the recipe for which I will share with you soon, but this was just something else! The chefs obviously get the importance of protein, so everything is always packed full of it. The amount of fresh tuna chunks mixed in with the rice was amazing.
Being supplied with the right nutrition while training and racing is so important for me. Having this all provided, makes the whole experience far more enjoyable. There is so much to be said for good food having an impact on your mood. It definitely helps with my morale and feels like the over all team’s morale as well. It creates a really positive atmosphere which definitely has an impact on the team’s performance as a whole. Hopefully we will see that impact on the results from this Worlds. Racing starts tomorrow. I race both Friday and Saturday. I will let you know how it goes.
Thank you for reading and speak soon.