My name is Jill Moffatt and I am an Olympic rower living in Victoria, B.C. Big Wheel Burger is supporting me on my path to the Olympics and in exchange I’ll be sharing parts of that journey with you! Follow along each month for behind the scenes stories and other things outside of rowing that I am passionate about. This month I wanted to share the role that nutrition plays for an Olympic athlete, and the importance of eating local. Thanks for reading along and joining me on my journey to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games!
Happy New Years!
To kick off the new year, I thought I would answer a question that I get asked a LOT 🙂 and because this is Big Wheel Burger, we can’t not talk about food. So here it is….
“How much does an Olympian eat?”
The answer is simple… a lot! As I train 6 days a week, 2-3 times a day, I am constantly in a state of fueling and refueling. How much I eat depends on how much training I do, and what kind of training. As a rower I spend a large part of my year doing what we call ‘volume training’. We spend a lot of hours doing long slow aerobic rowing – the kind of training a marathon runner would do.
We work with physiologists to see how much volume our body can tolerate and learn to push that window. The goal is to have a strong aerobic base, so that during race season we can do shorter workouts and focus on our race speed.
What this means is that we spend a lot of hours training in a day! Whether we are pushing the amount of volume our body can tolerate, or practicing for races, it is so important for us to be well fuelled and give our body as much energy as possible. Our bodies use our food for energy, and when we are the business of pushing our bodies capacity, food becomes very important.
During our big volume months, I can consume anywhere from 3000-4500 calories a day. For someone who is 5’6 that’s a lot of food! It is so important that I eat this much, as it helps my body refuel, repair, and get ready for the next day. If I don’t eat enough, I won’t feel great at practice, I’ll have low energy and I can run the risk of getting injured as my body doesn’t have what it needs to operate at such a high level.
Why Nutrition Matters
On my team we are lucky enough to work with some of the top sport nutritionists in Canada. They help us look at our training and our diet, and make suggestions of how our diet can help support us better. This is important because as an athlete it is important that I eat enough and the food has high nutritional content.
For me, this usually means that I am trying to make sure I am eating enough carbs (oatmeal, pasta, bread) to support my long hours on the water. Afterwards I try to a protein source to help build and repair muscles (protein shake, eggs, smoothies). Our bodies use what we put in them, and as an Olympian, I try to make sure I use high quality, nutritionally dense ingredients. Part of being a top-level athlete means that what you eat is just as important as how much you eat.
One thing that is different about the sport of rowing is that we have two weight classes. I am what is called a ‘lightweight’ meaning that when I race, I must weigh in two hours before, like boxing. If you don’t weigh in, then you race in the open weight category. Most of the year I don’t have to think about the weigh in or my weight, and my natural size allows me to sit comfortably around the weight target. When we do approach the race season, I do have to pay more attention to my weight and consider any changes that may be needed to my current diet.
This means that nutrition becomes even more important. I want to make sure I am fuelling my training, staying strong, and on track to meet my weight target. I make sure that I am meeting all my nutritional needs, fuelling for every session, but also making any adaptions that will allow me to make weight. This may mean losing a small amount of body fat. Luckily, our nutritionist works with me, and I can do this with a safe and scientific approach – and I don’t sacrifice delicious food! I mention this to highlight the importance that nutrition has when training for the Olympics and how much care and thought goes into what I eat.
Olympians eat Fast Food?
You may be wondering, how do Big Wheel burgers and milkshakes fit into the diet of an Olympian? As I mentioned previously, I eat a lot, and during the big training weeks, sometimes the only way to eat enough calories is to top off my day with a burger and milkshake. There is an assumption that fast food is not nutritious – but for Olympians fast food can be a great way to eat enough calories, and at Big Wheel Burger I know I am getting high quality ingredients that help fuel me.
Another assumption I hear is that if you are paying attention to your weight or diet, you shouldn’t be eating fast food. High quality fast food can fit into any diet, and the local ingredients Big Wheel uses are nutritious and filling, it’s a win/win! After a 5-hour bike ride, there is nothing I look forward to more than a Big Wheel strawberry milkshake!
Part of what makes Vancouver Island special, is that there are so any opportunities to have meals with real local ingredients from local businesses. As a daughter in a family of autoworkers, I know the importance of buying local. It is something that was ingrained in me at a young age and I try to keep this in mind while shopping and eating. When you support local, you are directly supporting another person in your community, whether it’s the owners of the business, the person who works at the till, or the person making your meal, the investment in a local business goes back into the community. Especially during uncertain times like the pandemic, it is even more important to help support local businesses. I find any easy way to do this is through 1) eating at a local restaurant when I do eat out 2) sourcing local ingredients like jam and eggs, which are so easy to find on the Island and 3) enjoying a beverage from one of our many local distilleries. These are just small things I try to do, but I do believe these small choices make a difference.
This month many of the athletes who competed at the Tokyo Games will begin training again at Elk Lake, including myself! I haven’t rowed since the Olympics, so I am really excited to get back on the water with my teammates. If you see us at the lake, feel free to give us a wave – we love interacting with the community. We will be training here until May and then we will be leaving for Europe to race.
I also got engaged to my partner, Dave, which was really exciting for us and our families. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and found moments of joy and peace.