From ‘feeding the hunger’ of the All-Ireland champions to gunning for her own basketball glory

THE TABLES WILL turn for Dublin ladies nutritionist Kate McDaid today.

Source: nutrikate_com Instagram.

While she normally helps elite players and athletes achieve their nutrition goals and target the extra percentages en route to success, she’s eyeing national glory herself as she lines out with Killester in the National Basketball Arena, Tallaght, this afternoon.

The Dubliners welcome Fr Mathews to the capital as they face off in the Hula Hoops NICC Women’s National Cup final [12pm].

“We’ve got the Big Dance this weekend,” McDaid smiles at the Gourmet Food Parlour HEC Ladies Football Championship launch on Tuesday.

“I’m really, really looking forward to it. It’s my first final now since I was U18 so it’s nice. Particularly when you’re working with successful athletes and you’re seeing them reap the rewards.

“Hopefully I’ll get to reap some rewards with my personal training now this weekend.”

“A Cork team,” she adds on Fr Mathews as the memories of Dublin’s All-Ireland final win over the Rebels last September come rushing back.

“You know Cork, they’ll always put up a battle. They’re definitely not going to lie down and roll over. Really, really looking forward to it. It should be a good clash. I’m ready for it!”

Also working tirelessly with the Longford men’s footballers and keeping the flag of her professional nutrition consultancy, NutriKate, flying high, McDaid spends the vast majority of her time getting her athletes, and other clients, ready for battle.

Obviously with an extensive background in basketball, she has also recently started playing Gaelic football, perhaps inspired by her attachment to Mick Bohan’s Sky Blues since last April.

2018 was a big one for the side: they successfully defended the Brendan Martin Cup and made it back-to-back All-Ireland titles for the first time in the county’s history, they lifted their seventh Leinster crown in-a-row and finally got their hands on the Division 1 league trophy.

“Fortunately for me, the girls are well tuned in,” McDaid begins, explaining her involvement in the set-up. ” They’re always looking to improve, take it a step further and always looking to be better.

“I just try to feed that hunger so to speak and help them with little areas that they need to work on. They’ve made work so easy, I’ve felt welcome from day one and we just really started pulling together and trying to work on those extra percentages.

“Any area that we could improve on, the girls wanted to improve. I just tried to compliment that as best as I could. Fortunately, we had a very successful campaign — plenty of hard work went into it but the process and the journey to get us there was really an experience in itself and something I think we’re always very grateful for.

“Moving into this season now, we’ve learned a few bits from last season. We’re again looking at where we can be better, what I can do better for the group from my role with the team. They’re the things we’ll be trying to fine tune now. I’m looking forward to the challenge of this year and trying to stay at the top.”

On a week-to-week basis, there’s a variety of different approaches when it comes to a team environment, the UCD and Loughborough University graduate, says.

Dublin celebrate winning the 2018 All-Ireland.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

There’s a welcome mixture of talks and presentations with the team all together, one-on-one discussions and group chats while she tailors player’s diets individually.

“We’ve got a mix,” she enthuses. “ I suppose when you’re working with a team, there’s core values and people need to meet certain standards, but you’re also dealing with 30-40 individual people.

“Girls who are going home to different home environments, girls working full-time, other girls are in college; what are the demands there, so on and so forth. I would try and work with the girls on a one-to-one basis.

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“We’d have some presentations in there too, everything is really interactive and engaging. You’re trying to make players see where this falls into their life and how it might benefit them.

“Obviously, I find my job extremely interesting and I know the value in it but for everyone, it’s like, ‘Just tell me what I need to do, I don’t care.’ And fair. It’s my job to facilitate that. You’re trying to keep it fresh the whole time and get people as engaged as you can.”

She adds, on tailoring dietary requirements and nutritional needs individually: “That can be extremely time consuming but it’s also, I think, the most rewarding for them and for myself.

“My job is to give them every chance to get the most gains out of what they’re doing and to really take advantage of all the hard work that they do on a day-to-day basis for training and matches. It’s my job to make that part of their programme easier.

“I think the only way to do that is to really listen to the athletes in front of you. It’s like, ‘Ok, let’s not go full tilt here, you’ve got enough things to be worrying about… what can we work on now that’s going to have the biggest impact? Ok, you’ve started to nail that, what can we move onto now?’

“That’s what I love to do. Players have enough pressures and the last thing you want to do is throw another load on top of them. It’s bit by bit, and getting a sustainable approach is really important.”

Extra percentages and extra inches have almost become buzz words in this day and age as teams across the length and breadth of the country bid to be the best, and do absolutely anything they can to get over the line.

Over the past few years, nutrition has become vital and is now a central part of the inter-county player’s life.

“We heard the girls speaking there,” McDaid notes after the panel discussion at the launch, “and just the demands that are put on them… one of them only having one weekend off in a year, that’s not something that is easily done.

“When you’re fuelling and you’re recovering adequately and sufficiently, and trying to make the most of the rest that you’re given, that gives you longevity as a player. It’s so, so important.

“Too many times you see people fall down with injuries that are avoidable. You’re trying to limit that as much as possible and keep the girls healthy. A healthy individual is always going to have a better chance at reducing their risk of picking up unnecessary illnesses and injuries.

“That’s what you’re looking to do. It’s making people right across the board realise that. It’s just trying to stay on top of recovery and fuelling adequately, which players can fall down on unknowingly and not for not wanting to know. Sometimes it’s just ironing out the missing pieces for them.”

McDaid speaking to the media at the launch.

Source: Ladies Football.

While a seriously increased amount of focus has been put on nutrition of late, McDaid still feels that there are major gains to be made by teams.

“It’s kind of an educating process,” she adds. “I think there’s a lot of misconceptions out there, there’s a lot of poor information out there and our job, as practitioners, is to try and unmuddy that water and debunk a few myths.

“Nutrition actually isn’t as difficult as it’s made out to be sometimes. You’re just trying to get people into better habits maybe, just fine-tuning. You’re not trying to upturn anyone’s life or anything. It’s just about educating them a little bit better.

“Little things like instead of having that slice of toast after training, you’d probably be better off having a pint of milk. It’s as easy as that.”

Other misconceptions and bad habits people have fallen into, she says, are eating too late at night, confusion surrounding carbohydrate intake and honing in on sugar intake. The important thing is looking at the bigger picture.

“Do you know what’s a massive misconception,” she interjects, “thinking what works for the person next to you should automatically work for you.

“That can be quite defeatist if you don’t recognise how different you are from your team-mates and what different responsibilities or pressures lie on you as an individual.

“Recognising that you should listen to yourself and try to work out, ‘Actually, what does make me feel a bit better? What does actually work well for me?’ It’s a really important thing, I think athletes need to start thinking about and listening to themselves a little bit more.”

The health and performance nutritionist doesn’t see any real differences between working with ladies and men’s teams: it just comes down to different personalities in the respective set-ups.

“I adore working with both of them and they do set up their own challenges. Sometimes you might have to deliver a message in a different way.

“But at the end of the day, you’re working with people who are extremely committed, extremely passionate and love what they do. I’m just trying to compliment that and make sure that they stay as healthy and as fit and injury-free as possible. It’s great.”

After a short but sweet, and really informative, conversation, it’s clear to see that McDaid loves what she does. And that her hard work is well and truly paying dividends. 

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I have written about this before but this topic was brought up on a podcast I was recording so it got me thinking. This year, I made the decision to play a lower division in basketball. It was for a number of reasons; I work 7 days per week most weeks, so playing twice a week in Dublin with no weekend games was a lot more manageable. Last season, I felt like stress was the main outcome rather than enjoyment. Work, with late mornings and early starts was taking it’s toll on me, I wasn’t able to give basketball the headspace it needed, my body wasn’t getting the rest it needed and I grew more and more frustrated as I felt like I was continuously underperforming and letting myself and my team mates down. _____________________ 🍍🍍🍍 _____________________ I have learned a lot from basketball and sport over the years and I know that I am a lot happier as a human when I have an outlet, provided I play in a capacity that fits in with my life. My priorities have changed. Div 1 team was the solution – still allowing me to play sport at a competitive level but without the additional pressure or commitment. 3 months in and I am back loving basketball because it fits within my constraints. It allows me to switch off twice each week, be more creative, think clearer and it is great to have the social element of it all too. Having an excuse to meet with friends each week. Something which you can let slide very easily when things get busy. _____________________ 🍍🍍🍍 _____________________ No matter what your schedule, there is an option and solution for us all to look after our physical and mental health. You just need to find out what that looks like for you. What it is that works for you to achieve that? Is it playing a lower league? Is it going to the gym twice per week or is it meeting friends to go for a walk every Sunday? Sport can be an excellent outlet and support system you just need to find your team! _____________________ 🍍🍍🍍 _____________________ #nutrition #health #sport #basketball #nutrikate

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Working with one team, she agrees, requires a lot of time, never mind two or three, along with other clients through her company NutriKate.

“It’s hard, it is,” she laughs, sharing the news that she has an intern starting shortly which will come as a “Godsend”.

“But I mean I love what I do and that makes it so much easier. It is difficult but I adore it. I would go in working with the girls, and same with the lads — if I’m being perfectly honest, any of my clients — and it doesn’t feel like work. There’s been quite a few times where I’m sitting at my laptop being like, ‘Oh my God, this is my job!’ It’s really nice.”

“Now, don’t get me wrong,” she concludes, “there are times where you’re like, ‘Oh my God, how am I going to get past the week?’ But no, all in all, I’m very fortunate.

“I adore what I do and I suppose from my perspective, it’s just making sure that I can manage things effectively and efficiently so that my clients and the teams that I’m working with get the best possible advice and support that they deserve.”

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