Fans of Aussie Rules Football will know exactly who Emma Zielke is. Captain of the Brisbane Lions, and a regular in the All-Star games down under, Emma has been an inspiration in the womens game.
Signed as a priority player by Brisbane ahead of the new AFL Womens season in 2017, Emma had a spectacular season; the team were un-defeated all season (until the final deciding game), she was nominated for the MVP award, and was included in the 40-strong All-Australian squad.
In September 2017, Emma was on the end of a brutal injury; a stray knee to the ribcage in the State of Origin game left her with two broken ribs & a punctured lung. Now well into her recovery, and having been named the club captain by her team mates for the 2018 season, we chatted with Emma about how she fuels her performances at the elite level...
Ahead of a game, what sorts of food/snacks are you having, & when are you eating? "If playing a night game, I will have a large high-carb meal at around 2pm and then a sandwich usually with peanut butter on it about 4pm and fruit".
What do you eat after competing? "We have meals provided after a game, usually pasta or chicken and vegetables".
Does your diet change much between off & on-season? "Yes, I don’t eat as many high carb meals throughout the off season if I am not doing as much cardio as I would during the AFLW season".
Did you have to eat/drink more or less of anything in particular when you were coming back from injury in September? What was the most important element of your recovery (a lot of athletes have spoken about the huge importance of sleep for recovery)? "I was very mindful of what I ate during the time I could not exercise, I didn’t overeat or overdo it with Carbs. I made sure I stuck to my veggies and protein. The most important part about my recovery as it was broken ribs, was to not overdo anything. I wasn’t able to run at 100% or lift much in the gym so I made sure I stuck to my strict program and was very mindful of the time it needed to heal".
What are your thoughts on protein bars & shakes? "I use protein after every training session, game and gym session. It helps fuel my muscles and after training and games replenishes my body with energy".
Do you eat much at the gym/after the gym? "After the gym, protein is first and foremost. I usually eat within half hour – 45 minutes after gym. Good mix of protein and veggies".
What does an AFL players gym session look like for you (lots of weights, or cardio, or a mix)? "It's very much strength and conditioning. You need both to go hand in hand. In pre season in the gym it was all about building strength and during the season it is about maintaining the strength. With conditioning it is quite the same, we need to build on our fitness base coming off our community football commitments and we maintain that during the season. We have two great coaches that keep us on track!"
What is your cheat meal? "I love Grill’d Burgers and chips!"
What meal(s) do rely on the most at home? "Usually Salmon, Chicken or Steak and veggies are my go to!"
Do you have a favourite recipe? "I love making Zucchini Slice. It’s not my own recipe but stolen from friend!"
How important is hydration at your level? "Massive! We play in the hottest part of the year (summer) and we play in very hot temperatures so being hydrated for training and game day is a must".
You've been an elite athlete for a number of years now, has your diet changed or developed in this time? "It has changed, I have actively been trying to tidy my diet up over the last few years as I’m far from perfect but being in an elite environment we have great resources to help us with these sort of things".
Do you have any pre-game rituals? "I make sure I have hydralyte and the same breakfast (Toast, avo, poached eggs, mushrooms) and a coffee, and listen to the same playlist to pump me up".
Do you have a favourite place to compete in? "So far I’ve really enjoyed playing at Norwood Oval in Adelaide".