Food, glorious food?

The Power of Food

Kate Haywood, Olympian and new member of the EP team shares her story on why food was integral and made such a difference to her productivity and success whilst representing team GB.

Health and wellbeing does make a real difference to someone’s performance, whether in sport or in the workplace. If we look after ourselves correctly and eat well, drink plenty of water and exercise regularly, it can make a huge difference to our physical and mental health which then understandably impacts on the results we get.


During my 12 years as a professional athlete, this is something which was just as vital to our performance as the training in the pool. Food and drink was the fuel which helped me through every session and the hours of training each day. Not only was it about the physical energy but equally as much about the mental energy I needed. We had the support of a trained nutritionist to help guide us through the day to day basics. However, it was us as athletes had to take ownership our food intake and the planning and preparation our meals each day and make sure we had the correct foods to refuel our bodies and minds straight after a session ended.

This was something which become an essential part of the daily routine

The athletes who I trained with were just as focused on their nutrition as I was and we ended up sharing evenings cooking together which became perfect social events away from the pool!

Being prepared and getting into a routine made a huge difference. Forward planning meals and snacks which I would need during that day was essential.

When in the hardest phases of training, swimming around 12000m in the pool daily (240 laps), plus land training on top of that, my daily intake of food would look similar to this –

  • 6.30am Weetabix
  • 7.30am – 10am Pool session
  • 10am Cereal/protein bar
  • 10.30am Gym (weights/circuits)
  • 11/11.30am Piece of fruit/dried fruit
  • 12/12.30 Wrap/pasta/sandwich (usually will contain meat/salad/veg)
  • 1.30-2/2.30pm Nap (sleep!)
  • 2.30pm Eggs on toast/banana or malt loaf
  • 3.15pm Pool gym – Pre-workout stretching and core
  • 4.00pm -6.00pm Pool session
  • 6.00pm Cereal/protein bar
  • 7.00pm Home and dinner – Spaghetti bolognaise, stir fry etc – always a mixture of protein, carbs and nutrients

Potentially a snack before bed, getting to sleep at 9.30/10pm

This would change on competition days – Why? We still needed the food fuel for quick recovery and more regular bursts of energy…timing was everything!

  • Breakfast – Usually something quite plain – toast/eggs
  • Pre-race Heats– Espresso coffee about 30 minutes before
  • Post-race – Protein/cereal bar
  • Swim down (cool down), Massage/stretch
  • Lunch – Chicken, pasta, vegetables/salad –
  • Rest/sleep
  • Banana/cereal bar
  • Pre-race Final – Espresso about 30 minutes before
  • Post-race – protein/cereal bar
  • Swim down (cool down), Massage/stretch
  • Dinner Pasta/stir fry – a variety of different foods
  • Occasionally sometimes I would have chocolate, my happy food

There were stressful and tiring days where all you would want to do would be to eat the biggest pizza! Some days I would definitely slip into that net. So as part of the routine I introduced a ‘cheat day’, on the weekend where I could relax and enjoy some of my favourite treats and not feel guilty about the effects it would have on training. This was a great way to satisfy those cravings but to also give me the essential feel happy/reward factor.

We eat food which makes us feel better, happy, comforted which satisfies our emotional needs = emotional or stress eating and that can be a no no! 

Sometimes we need to reward ourselves, life is fast paced and full on and food can be a great way to do this. But having the wrong types of food daily can and does have a very negative effect on our productivity, health and well being.

It is easy to learn what to eat and when you eat it. Making small changes, planning and preparing can be key to a happier and more productive life and work life.

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