I caught up with Lora Storey, a 400m, 400m hurdles, and 800m runner with Olympic qualification within reach, at a café in Sydney. We chatted over coffee and I cut straight to the Performance Kitchen point:
What was your breakfast this morning?
“Breakfast was muesli with milk, I usually have yogurt but as it’s a race day I just had milk as it’s not as heavy so I can digest it quicker, so I can be hungrier at lunchtime. Otherwise it’s a battle to eat something decent for lunch”
So eating something closer to training time is important?
“I hate feeling hollow and hungry during warm-up, but at the same time you don’t want to get to the track and feel your lunch coming up. It’s best to have more small meals more regularly.”
What do these small meals consist of?
“Fruit or a smoothie. I often have a Nutribullet of frozen berries, banana, a bit of water and a bit of milk- though too much milk won’t sit well. For lunch itself I have chicken on a race day, as it’s lighter on the stomach. Afternoon snacks are homemade protein balls, and my dietitian recommended air-popped popcorn as a snack and a way of occupying my stomach.”
What do you eat when you’re at the gym?
“I tend to eat the same whether I’m doing a track session, run or gym. After training is what changes and I’m pretty standard with my recovery food. After the gym it’s dried fruit as I live about 45 minutes drive away and can eat it in the car. After a track session I’ll have my homemade protein balls, nut mix, something that has a bit more protein and is more solid in my stomach as I’ve expended more energy.
Once I’m home from the track I have my ice bath, which gives me a half-hour gap between not having an appetite to being starving, and ready to kill someone if I don’t get something to eat!”
What’s dinner for you?
“I try to get a white meat, fish and a red meat in a week. I always try to get five different colour vegetables. It doesn’t matter what has more nutritional value or whatever, as just going for five different colours makes it easier to get right.
I don’t really eat a lot all at once I’m more of a grazer. I make sure I get the right balance of protein and carbohydrates, as it’s really easy for me to fill up on carbs and leave no room for the rest.
My red meats and chicken I cook on the BBQ so the fat runs off it. I poach chicken as well and have it on homemade pizzas and pasta. Fish is generally salmon, much to my boyfriend’s disgust.”
He hates salmon? Is he mad?
“He’s not much of a fish person, but it’s so good for you! I tend to wrap it in foil with some lemon and spice and bake it.”
You mentioned homemade protein balls as your snack before; do you generally make your snacks yourself? You don’t go for protein shakes or anything?
“I got a great piece of advice from my old strength coach who was an ex rugby player, and who’s always around for me when I need inspiration.
‘If it chew, grew or flew then eat it. If you’ve got to unwrap it leave it.’
I’d rather eat my own food as I know what’s in it. Every dietitian will say that you don’t need to blow hundreds on dollars on these huge tubs of protein then worry what else is in it that could be banned- if I need a nutritional supplement then I stick with bog standard Sustagen.
Also as a runner I don’t need to be building muscle I need to be building strength, which comes from my training.
Most importantly of course, my food tastes better!”
Do you have any food vices? I probably should have asked before I got you a coffee!
“Coffee may be my main weakness, but you won’t find a distance runner that doesn’t like their coffee! It doesn’t have any negative effects on my training or sleep, so it’s my treat if my need something sweet.
I’ve got a massive sweet tooth that’s hard to resist. When I lived in Perth my diet was horrible, I didn’t realize until I moved to Sydney how much I’ve got to put the right stuff in.
People say I drink a lot of milk, but it doesn’t affect my stomach. I don’t have issues controlling my weight so for a smaller-framed female who’s in the high risk range for stress fractures given the training I do, the more calcium the better!”
Does your diet change between seasons?
“In winter I’m doing a lot more kilometers, and even if I don’t necessarily notice it I’ll be grazing more. I do tend to get heavier as the training intensity isn’t as high; we’re concentrating on distance. But you’ll struggle to find an athlete that doesn’t gain during winter season; it gives you a sense that you’re stripping back when it comes to summer. Puts it into context.”
As an Englishman I’ve been very aware of how hot this summer has been in Sydney, how does heat affect your training?
“Luckily for me I originate from Perth, which gets as hot as it can get. It’s a dry heat straight off the desert, so I’ve always run well in those conditions. We had a 45-degree day here in Sydney recently that pushed the competition into the night, but the track heat got to as high as 60 degrees and it didn’t affect me.
However I’ve run in Arizona where it’s something life five percent humidity- you could see the cactus and roadrunners being chased by coyotes just beyond the track. You feel like you’re running with dry Weetabix in your mouth, but it’s good to experience different climates. You never know where in the world you’ll need to run in.
Still, my coach is aware that heat affects people differently and adjusts the training to suit it. Recovery is the most important aspect; I see a lot of athletes that just aren’t prepared. I come with three frozen water bottles and three bottles of electrolytes. I look like I’m ready for the apocalypse.”
On the subject of electrolytes, what’s you opinion of energy drinks?
“I swear by a product called SOS Rehydrate. I really like them as they’re a dissolvable powder that doesn’t fizz, which you don’t want in your stomach as you’re running. So joys of being an athlete, my parents got me about $100 worth for my birthday! I’ll go through two or three a day.”
What advantages does Sydney have over Perth?
“Sydney’s a big pond with a lot of fish, so you get to compete against a bigger variety of talent. The facilities are second to none and there’s a track every thirty minutes. There’s double the amount of coaches. Plus it’s much easier to travel from there to other places such as Melbourne or overseas.
I work in a school in Normanhurst and I’m really lucky they’re so supportive of what I do. Everyone is so supportive, including the students. Sometimes I see them out on the track, which means part of me knows I need to win and win convincingly!
It’s also got my boyfriend who has just retired from competitive athletics, so he understands and is supportive. When he cooks I know he’s looking at it the same way I am. I live on the other side of the country and it’s a big relief for them to know I’m so well looked after.”
Anything negative about Sydney?
“It’s very body conscious here, though I’ve actually had more comments from people on the beach and places because of my slim body type. Once they find out I’m an athlete they tend to understand.
On the flipside of that there’s this opinion in the athletic community that the key to succeeding is to lose weight, which is such a broad, damaging idea. I’ve raced against runners in the US that were heavier than normal, but stronger as well. Having the correct diet and training is really the key. There’s also the Bondi diet, that don’t help.”
The Bondi Diet?
“That’s what we call whatever fad diets are in fashion at the time, like paleo or gluten-free. None of them are based on dietary science, or tailored to the individual.
I’ve heard stories of a school in the Eastern Suburbs that has a ‘red food’ list of food that’s prohibited. There was one kid who had a caramel cake slice made by his mum confiscated as it was a ‘red food’! Good diet isn’t as cut and dry as this, it’s important to understand it as fuel, and what you put in affects your performance.”
That’s the Performance Kitchen philosophy!
Laura’s goals this year are the World Championships in London in August and the World Relays in April.
About the Author: Dominic Crawford is a writer hailing from Brighton, but currently based on the East coast of Australia.