Despite their loss last night, England women’s football made a noble effort in the Euro 2017 semi-finals last night. We spoke to footballer Karen Carney and three other incredible sportswomen to find out what an athlete eats in a day
This is a BIG time for women’s sports. Thought they didn’t quite break through to the Euro 2017 finals last night, the England women’s football team – aka The Lionesses – gave the the Netherlands a run a for their money last night in Euro 2017 semi-finals. English football supporters can still take pride in the national team for the first time in a long while as the ladies definitively one-up the men (who don’t currently make it into the FIFA world top ten rankings #justsaying).
With more than a few women in the England football team aged over 30, it got us thinking: whatever these women are eating to stay in shape, we want a lorry full. But it’s not just the kitchen cupboards of female footballers we’d like to pry into. Healthista spoke to four female athletes who have smashed it in their sports about what they eat each day to stay at the top of their games.
The athlete: England footballer, Karen Carney
Carney is a big name in women’s sport. Not only is the 30 year-old Chelsea’s player of the year, she’s also the first female England player to feature in seven consecutive tournaments – a huge achievement for any athlete. This week, Carney has playing in the Euro 2017 semi-finals and also celebrating her thirtieth birthday.
While she doesn’t like to count calories, the footballer reveals that she makes sure she’s supplementing her intensive workouts with plenty of healthy grub and explained that a healthy diet is essential to keeping injury free, lean and athletic – along with getting a good night’s kip.
‘I’ve been injured whilst playing in the past and that’s taught me I need to eat more and eat right in order to build up a bit more muscle and resilience. In the past, I didn’t care about my diet very much but I was probably too light and skinny… I was injured because I wasn’t eating enough. It’s really important to get the right balance of food. I’m constantly eating!’ These days, Carney has upped her intake, ‘I needed to get the calories and build muscle so I eat a lot of protein now and drink a lot of it too.’
It takes real dedication to stick to a diet like Carney’s. Her diet is strict and protein heavy (and if we’re honest, a little boring).
Speaking to USN Today, Carney admitted her favourite meal is breakfast. But what does the footballing champ eat for brekkie? ‘When I’m at Chelsea I usually have eggs and a yoghurt for breakfast. Just scrambled eggs on their own with nothing else,’ she revealed. It might sound plain but it’s a real protein punch – important if you’re working your muscles on a football pitch all day.
When it comes to snacking, the Solihull native keeps it simple. ‘To keep me going I snack on fruit, nuts and cereal bars throughout the day.’ If the thought of snacking on plain old fruit and nuts all day bores you, check out this list of the best raw healthy snacks that you can pick up out and about – here.
I’m dying to have pie and chips, fish and chips, pizza and puddings all the time
Lucky for Carney, there’s a team of nutritionists and cooks at hand to make sure the England players are eating the right types of food – there’s no temptation to lunch on chips when there’s a healthy spread laid out. ‘At lunch time the food’s all put on for us there so we’ll have chicken or fish and lots of vegetables or salad – I always have a really big lunch after training,’ (we wish we had someone rustling things up for us when we got home from the gym).
When it comes to an evening meal, pancakes are the food that gets a look in (perhaps a remnant of the star’s time playing over in the US) – ‘In the evening I don’t really eat that much, I just have some more eggs or something really light like pancakes. Sometimes I might eat more chicken or fish with vegetables. When I’m away with England we seem to eat a lot more, I’d say our meal sizes would add up to about a meal and a half extra, with the extra focusing on the eggs and meat so that we get more protein in.’
The cheat meal
Despite this hardcore healthy diet, Carney’s definitely not a robot. Her Instagram features a picture of a big chocolate birthday cake and the striker reveals she has cravings for the same things as us mere mortals. ‘I’m dying to have pie and chips, fish and chips, pizza and puddings all the time. There’s a person with a bad diet inside of me but I just choose not to let it come out. After every game at Chelsea, I do have a nice thin stone based pizza though.’
Official sponsors of the England women’s football team, Vauxhall Motors are uniting the nation to #GetIN this summer and make some noise for the team. Learn the rallying rants and chants for the team, shout them and support them at www.vauxhallfootball.co.uk
The athlete: Paralympian swimmer, Ellie Simmonds
In 2008 a 13-year-old Ellie Simmonds took the pool in the Beijing Summer Paralympics. Little did the world know she’d be the youngest medallist of the competition – winning two golds for Britain. Going on to win a further gold in London AND set the World Record in the 400m freestyle race, it’s safe to say Ellie Simmonds is one hell of a woman. Now 23, she’s a woman with big plans. Speaking to Healthista she said, ‘Long-term in the pool I’d love to go to Europeans [Aquatic Championships] next year and then the worlds and then to go to Tokyo 2020 [Olympics] would be incredible. Outside of the pool, my aim is to become a primary school teacher – when I retire from swimming, I’d love to do that.’
But it’s not just pool time and dreams of the future that gets the swimmer excited – she’s a real foodie too. Admitting herself a big fan of both Deliciously Ella and The Body Coach she revealed ‘I try to do one new recipe a week when I’m at home just to try new things out…’ Simmonds explained that her diet is crucial to giving her body the right energy. ‘On the days when I give myself bad food I feel awful in the water so if I can give myself really good food then I feel better and am happier with myself. It’s like having a car, if it was petrol and you gave it diesel, it wouldn’t run. So why would you give your body the bad energy?’
I can’t eat much breakfast before a race because I get so nervous
Her favourite foods include avocados, sweet potatoes and paprika. ‘I always have sweet potato in my cupboard, you can rustle them up with anything. You can have it as a jacket potato, with salad, you could have it with a main meal, you can roast it – it’s just something that is so easy. I’ve also always got strawberries or spinach in. I love spinach, you can just chuck it into a salad or wilt it in an omelette.’
So what else does the gold medalist munch on throughout the day?
The first thing that starts this legendary Paralympian’s day? A proper British brew. ‘Normally I wake up and have a cup of tea, I can’t start my day without a cup of tea and then for my breakfast I have Weetabix with some fruit and yoghurt.’ But when it comes to race day, it’s a different story, ‘I can’t eat much breakfast before a race because I get so nervous. On those days, I’ll usually just have a bowl of cereal. I really can’t eat yoghurt before a race, I don’t know why. It just doesn’t work well for me.’
Nut butter features high up on Simmonds’s list of favourite snacks. ‘I’d normally have a snack before training which is usually an apple or a piece of fruit. Nuts are great too – I love peanut butter. I use Whole Earth, I always get the good stuff. My favourite snack would be banana smothered in crunchy peanut butter.– that is just amazing.’
Simmonds is another athlete getting a little over-egg-cited about one particular type of food (sorry, not sorry). ‘Eggs are always a big part of my lunch. I have them with spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms. Usually fried eggs or poached, I love a good poached egg. I fry my mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach altogether, just whack them all in a pan.’ When opting for a salad, it’s all about keeping things simple.’I dress it with a bit of oil or balsamic vinegar, I just keep it natural or add a sprinkle of sunflower seeds or nuts. Usually, I have a bit of spinach, bits of roasted veg, pumpkin seeds and a few plum tomatoes in there.’
I love going out for breakfast and having pancakes
‘Dinner is a piece of meat with roasted veg, easy and simple. I love having steak with some roasted veg and some potatoes or rice. Or, I love making a marinade with soy sauce, garlic and ginger and a bit of honey which I marinate with roasted vegetables or meat, it tastes amazing with lamb. When it comes to veg I love roasted beetroot, leeks, asparagus or sweet potato – I really love sweet potato… and then dessert would be more yoghurt (I just get Sainsbury’s own brand of plain yoghurt) or a hot chocolate.’
The cheat meal
Foodie that she is, Simmonds doesn’t shy away from giving herself a treat on the weekend. ‘I find going out to eat for a meal is a nice social thing that you do with your friends. It’s nice to do that with food. I love ALL food, I love going out for a steak or an Italian – anything.’ But if she had to choose her ultimate indulgent cheat meal? ‘I love going out for breakfast and having pancakes. It would probably be American style pancakes with maple syrup and bacon. But definitely not every day, not even every week.’
As an Ambassador for health and life insurer Vitality, Ellie Simmonds uses her passion for healthy living to inspire people to be active and make positive changes to their lifestyle. Visit www.vitality.co.uk for more information.
The athlete: heptathlete, Katarina Johnson-Thompson
It’s been a disappointing weekend for British heptathlete Johnson-Thompson finishing fifth at the World Athletics Championships but speaking to BBC sport, the athlete was positive about the future saying, ‘I feel like one of these days it will happen for me.’ When you’re playing at the top of your game, diet plays a huge role. We spoke exclusively to the sports star about the foods that fuel her intensive training regime.
‘I eat anything I like but in moderation’ reveals Katarina Johnson-Thompson. And with a heavy regimen of burning it all off in a hot stadium in the south of France – training in not just one or two but seven different events, it’s easy to see how she has that attitude. The multi-medallist and holder of the British long jump and high jump record admits that while she’s a good all-rounder, she definitely springs herself into certain disciplines more easily than others. ‘Although I train for seven events, there are definitely some sessions that I look forward to. My training partner Nana Djinou (France’s equivalent to Johnson-Thompson) and I compete in the same event and undertake the same training but we are completely different athletes – I prefer the speed and power sessions but I don’t think she’d agree with me on that.’
When it comes to training, Johnson-Thompson’s motto is to keep it varied (try her Switch7 workout for bored fitness people) and to have a little self-belief. When we asked her for a nugget of wisdom she told us, ‘Know you can do it and believe in yourself. Your brain may tell you to stop and that you can’t go on but you can keep going – find that extra push within yourself and you’ll be really grateful afterwards.’
drinking water is also so important, a lot of the time you may think you’re hungry when your body is really asking for water
For most of us, there isn’t the calling of the Olympics and World Championships to push us out of bed in the morning but the Liverpudlian-born athlete says there is something driving everyone. When you need a little motivation? ‘Think about what you are doing it for – what is the goal? Keep this in mind and if you really want to succeed, you will find the motivation.’
On her Twitter bio, the Olympian states that she is ‘chronically indecisive so I’ve adopted two surnames & the heptathlon.’ Despite her apparent indecisiveness, she seems to have picked up some seriously concrete decisions about what she likes to fuel her body with day to day.
Much like the team here at Healthista, Johnson-Thompson starts her day with a nutritious morning smoothie. ‘Breakfast is usually a shake. I add frozen fruits, whey protein and some oats into Nutri-bullet and drink that – it’s such a good start to the day.’ Smoothies packed with protein and oats are a great way to fill yourself up until lunchtime. Fancy getting your blend on? Nutritionist Rick Hay has collaborated with Healthista to create a 30-day smoothie challenge – get the recipes here.
Much like her fellow athletes, the super-fast sprinter keeps her snacks healthy throughout the day but explained that for her, drinking plenty of water is much more important. ‘I’ll occasionally snack on some fruit or nuts throughout the day. But drinking water is also so important, a lot of the time you may think you’re hungry when your body is really asking for water.’
there are times when I choose to eat an ice-cream or a pizza
There’s no ditching of carbs for this athlete – and is it any wonder when she’s living cheek by jowl with all those lovely French baguettes? Her midday munch of choice? Toast. ‘For lunch, I’ll usually have a couple of slices of toast with some eggs and avocados. Then I switch between having that with either ham or salmon.’ Sounds delicious to us but where is the Brie?
Of course, the die-hard food of all athletes had to come up at some point in the day – lean and high in protein, chicken plays a crucial part in giving the heptathlete the energy she needs for all of those speed and power sessions she loves. ‘Dinner is normally chicken breast with rice and vegetables. When it comes to veg, I’m a big fan of broccoli or cauliflower and sometimes I’ll switch it up and have chicken with some salad and rice instead.’ Despite meticulously packing in all those macros and micros, the athletics star doesn’t believe in keeping track of her calories. ‘I don’t like to count them, I just eat well to ensure I’m properly fuelled for the day’s activities.’
The cheat meal
Johnson-Thompson outlined an average day of well-balanced eating, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t reach for something sweet and greasy every now and then. ‘I try to eat healthily but there are times when I choose to eat an ice-cream or a pizza. I don’t deny myself those kinds of foods but I just try to make sure that isn’t too often.’ And of course, when it comes to her birthday, like Carney, the 23-year-old will happily indulge in a big creamy cake come birthday time – and has the Instagram pic to prove it.
The athlete: England cricketer, Danielle Hazell
The England ladies cricket team are another team proving that right now is a great time to be female in sports. With a phenomenal World Cup victory win recently, we wanted to know what does batsman and off break bowler, Dani Hazell like to do to hype herself up before a big game? Does she jump about? Pump out loud music?
I wouldn’t say I’m a good cook but I try my best
‘I like to have a cup of tea and watch the world go by,’ revealed Hazell. ‘I sit on the balcony and take the surroundings in. This chilled-out attitude is typical of the northern 29-year-old and used to translate to her approach to dieting too. But recently Hazell’s recently made adjustments to what she eats and has reaped the benefits on the field. ‘Over the last year, I’ve really tried to sort my diet out and get the most out of what I’m eating. I think I was probably a bit flippant in the past and I didn’t really understand how to get the best out of my diet… changing my diet has definitely impacted my performance. I’m moving better and haven’t had as many injuries this year – it’s really starting to pay off.’
That being said, there’s one healthy food trend this sportswoman simply can’t get behind. ‘I’ve tried my best to like avocado. I know it’s really healthy but I just don’t get it. It’s just a funny texture.’ So what healthy (and less healthy) foods does this England cricketer like to eat day-to-day?
Eggs, eggs and more eggs – could they be the key to all of these sports’ stars success? ‘I’m a bit of an omelette fan, so I start my day with that normally. I’m talking ham, tomato, mushroom, and a sprinkle of cheese – not too much though.’ While she enjoys spending time cooking when she gets the chance, Durham-born Hazell doesn’t rate her skills in the kitchen. ‘I’m not too adventurous. I wouldn’t say I’m a good cook but I try my best.’
I sound like I eat chicken all the time but I eat steak as well – I do really like my meat.
Hazell is a lady that likes to snack – but from protein bars to yoghurt pots, she keeps them filling and fuelling. ‘It depends on what I’m doing in the day but I try and gym in the morning and if I’ve done that I tend to have a bit of a snack mid morning. Maybe a protein bar or protein shake depending on what I’ve done.’ Then in the afternoon, it’s time for another snack. ‘I’ll have a bit of yoghurt – I’ll just add berries to a plain yoghurt and make my own and then maybe I’ll have a bit of fruit.’ If it’s a protein bar that Hazell is reaching for, it’s usually a white chocolate Grenade, ‘They taste that good that I’m starting to think they’re not good for me.’
At lunch time it’s more protein for this busy athlete. ‘In the middle of the day, I normally have a piece of chicken or salmon with rice and salad.’ Chicken features as a heavy favourite when she’s cooking for other people. ‘My go-to is always something involving chicken – If I had people over I might cook them a good healthy roast with chicken, vegetables and sweet potato. I only have a little bit of gravy – back in the day I might have piled it on.’
Come evening, it’s time to eat chicken again. ‘I sound like I eat chicken all the time but I eat steak as well – I do really like my meat. Typically I’ll have some meat with some sweet potato – I like it as a jacket potato or sometimes just in the oven made into nice wedges.’ Over the past year, Hazell has learned to stay away from bread and admits that she tries to avoid having pudding.
I am a bit of a bandit for a cheat meal
The cheat meal
To balance out that healthiness throughout the week, Hazell makes sure she has something to look forward to on the weekend. ‘I am a bit of a bandit for a cheat meal. I try to keep my week pretty good and then on Saturday I am a bit partial to a bit of a pizza. I love a chicken (shock, horror) or a meat feast. It’s a serious part of my week… I don’t mind going to a nice Italian restaurant but I don’t like the pizza being too thin, I want the full benefit of the crust. Thin pizza is a waste of time, I need to dip it into tomato sauce.’
Danielle Hazell was speaking during the launch of the Kia Super League, starting August 10. Tickets are available to purchase via ecb.co.uk/super-league