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Sports Nutrition Interview Series: Sophie MacKenzie - NZ Rowing

Pictured above: Julia Edward (front), Sophie MacKenzie (back). At the 2014 World Rowing Championships with the gold medal after winning the lightweight women's double in a world best time in Amsterdam.

Hailing from a high-country Marlborough station, Sophie MacKenzie is a world champion lightweight rower and is also one half of the wellbeing blog Megs and Soph. In this interview, as part of my sports nutrition series with top New Zealand athletes, I find out what floats Sophie's very healthy & successful rowing boat!

1. Where do you currently live?

I currently live in Cambridge but I’m about to head to Europe for three months to Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia and France for rowing world cups and championships.

2. Tell us a little about your sport and the weekly training that’s involved?

Rowing is a sport that requires A LOT of training, many kilometres each week. Roughly 180km - 200km, which varies with U2 (consistence pace rowing), squad piece ranging from 5km races to 4x 4km races, 3x 3km, 2x 5km races on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, one long 30km row each week and some afternoon shorter active recovery rows and technique sessions.

There are also individual erg sessions that target the areas of fitness or parts of a race that I need to improve on i.e. currently working my top zone/ sprint area and weight training 2-3 times per week. On top of this I do my own stretching or my form of yoga to help me stay injury free, release any excess tension I’m holding in my body and to wind down and relax. This roughly equates to 20 hours on a light week and up to 28 hours on a hard week including a bike warm up to and from training for each session.

3. What’s your favourite pre-training or pre-competition meal?

OATS!!!! I love them and porridge, especially right now in winter!

Pre-training - I soak ½ cup oats overnight in boiled water with cinnamon, ground ginger and salt. I then cook it in the morning and top with LSA, Manuka honey and fresh cream. I love it because it keeps me feeling full and sustains me through the cold and intense training sessions. Competition - I just soak oats in hot water overnight or for a couple of hours with some cinnamon or other flavours and eat my porridge after weight in. Weigh-in is exactly 2 hours before I race in competition and I have to weigh in at 57kgs.

4. It’s great to know what our top athletes eat! Run us through a typical training day and what you would eat?

  • 6.30am Porridge (as above)

  • ​9.30/10am 2 poached eggs on stirred up veggies/leftovers/roasties/gf toast

  • 12.30-1.30pm Lunch. Again leftovers, roast kumara & pumpkin salad, pumpkin soup, anything goes here really but I try to a get protein food, carbohydrates and vegetables in.

  • 3.30 - 4.30pm smoothie: protein, frozen berries, Greek yoghurt, avocado or banana, ground seeds, psyllium husks and 1 tsp fish oil for my omega 3’s.

  • 6.30pm Dinner. We always have meat (protein), some sort of carbohydrates (either rice, roasties, wraps or I make the boys pasta and I’ll have GF quinoa or spelt flour pasta) and vegetables, either stir-fried or in salads. Sometimes the boys forget so Ill add some more leafy greens like spinach.

5. What’s your go-to recovery snack or meal? Smoothies, I love them and they are so easy to ‘eat’ when you feel really tired and eating seems like hard work. I go for water, protein, banana or berries, some leafy greens or greens powder and avocado. Or a chocolate shake which is made from banana, cacao, protein and avocado.

6. If we peered into your fridge and pantry what would we find? Right now - not a lot as I’m trying to eat everything before we head overseas. But usually an assortment of flours such as quinoa, brown rice and coconut. Nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, brazil) and seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, chai, linseeds) as I make my own LSA and keep it in the fridge. Also coconut cream, cacao powder, maca powder, goji berries, homemade muesli, OATS. In the fridge you will find leftovers, vegetables, milk, almond milk, cream, cheese and sauerkraut.

7. What’s your favourite meal of all time? Hands down a homemade roast lamb (from home on the farm) with roast kumara, pumpkin, onion and garlic and cabbage, brussel sprouts, zucchini and spinach stir-fried in freshly grated ginger and organic butter. YUM!!!

8. Name your go-to blog or cookbook for healthy recipe inspiration? ;) I love just searching on for inspiration and then getting a feel for what I want to make and literally making something up, sometimes combining four different recipes to suit what I actually have in my pantry . I do love and I also have a tone of recipe books from Dr Libby, Annabel Langbein, Jamie Oliver and Nourishing Traditions (which is a great wholesome guide!)

9. Do you have a local café that you would recommend to other athletes? In Cambridge, The Paddock Café. They do the most amazing pork belly burgers on gluten free buns (and really good buns too) for only $10 and they have fresh juices and smoothies. Pretty much there whole menu is amazing and worth a try!

10. Do you have any advice for staying hydrated whilst travelling to games or tournaments overseas? Always keep a drink on hand and just keep sipping even if you have to go toilet 24/7

11. Do you have any tips for budding young athletes wanting to ward off illness, cold or flu whilst travelling and tackling a gruelling sporting schedule? Take vitamin c and zinc. Always be hygienic and shower at stop overs, remembering to take fresh clothes i.e. undies and hand sanitiser. Try and get lots of sleep because travelling just makes you feel tired and yuk in general. Take every opportunity to get out in the fresh air and breathe.

Thanks so much Soph, some brilliant tips. I love the idea of stir-frying green vegetables in organic butter and freshly grated ginger. Paired with lamb off the farm, it sounds delicious! I wish you all the best in your three months abroad. Go get em!

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