We’re very lucky at the Performance Kitchen, because we get to meet athletes from every discipline, from all over the world, from every walk of life. We recently got to speak with US athlete McKenzie Flinchum recently; gymnast, karate athlete (3rd black-belt in Shorin Ryu), dietitian, personal trainer, and Crossfit athlete, (plus Instagram star) about how shes fuels herself as a pro.
Having competed at national and international levels McKenzie, what meal(s) are you having in the lead-up to a competition? Is it all about taking on loads of calories the night before you compete in Crossfit for example?
“I try to focus on quality foods and making sure I am getting enough carbs and calories. I eat a lot of rice, keep my protein sources lean with chicken and shrimp being some favorites, and I eat healthy fat sources like nuts, olive oil and peanut butter to help meet calorie needs. I don’t want to feel stuffed or full, but at the same time I make sure that I am consuming plenty of calories. Sometimes I rely on supplements like protein and carb powders to help meet those needs too”.
Can you or do you eat much on the day of a competition?
“I tend to get really nervous during competition, and I don’t have much of an appetite as a result. I eat pretty bland and rely heavily on drinks and supplements to help easily get the calories and carbohydrates I need for performance and recovery. I will make shakes, drink juices, and even sometimes drink low fat chocolate milk as a way to consume enough nutrients for proper recovery between workouts”.
Is there anything you actively avoid (either because you don't like it, or because you are allergic)?
“No, I am not a picky eater. I don’t specifically avoid anything; although, I try (and enjoy) to eat very nutritious foods”.
Do you eat or drink much at the gym?
“No, I am never hungry while working out. I actually completely lose my appetite during training. If I am training a long session, sometimes I drink a carb drink during the session, like between workouts. I also oftentimes bring a carb/protein drink to have right after”.
What does a typical day of training look like for you?
“A typical training day usually consists of a 1.5-2 hour session in the morning before work. I will do conditioning, lifting/strength work, and some accessory work. Then I will have an afternoon session that is 1-2 hours long and is more conditioning and sometimes more strength or lifting and accessory work”.
How soon after a work out do you eat or drink?
“Oftentimes, especially if training a 2 hour session, I bring a post workout shake containing carb and protein powders that is usually mixed with 2 cups of almond milk. It will be about 300-350 calories, and then I eat a full meal about 30 minutes later when I am home. Sometimes, I skip the post workout drink and just eat a meal right away after getting home”.
How important is hydration to an athlete at your level?
“Hydration is super important. Just a small amount of dehydration can cause muscle fatigue. With all the training and sweating, it is necessary to stay hydrated”.
A lot of athletes we have spoken to talk about sleep as being the #1 recovery tool, do you find the same or do you rely on something else?
“I have read so many articles about sleep and performance. I know the impact of lack of sleep on performance as well as the opposite- the importance of sleep for recovery. I agree that it is the #1 recovery tool for me too”.
What meal(s) do you rely on the most at home?
“Rice bowls of some sort. Rice is a staple in my diet and it is a huge carb source of mine. I love rice and eggs (with cheese and cilantro avocado dressing), rice with shrimp, rice with chicken and guac...”
What is your cheat meal?
“Cookie cake :)”
What does a typical day of eating look like for you?
“On a typical day, I will have a post workout carb/protein drink then I will have breakfast.
Breakfast may be a smoothie (with fruits, vegetables, yogurt, peanut butter, and milk), whole grain pancakes, eggs and rice, or oatmeal.
My breakfast, including my post workout, is usually around 1000 calories.
I usually have lunch around 1-2 after my second training session.
This may be tuna and rice, a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread, or a bowl of chopped chicken, potatoes, rice and roasted veggies.
Lunch is usually around 800 calories
Sometimes if I get hungry I will have a snack. This may be fruit, a bar, or a yogurt.
Dinner will be my last meal.
Most days I will do a salad of some sort. As in I take my meal and eat it over a bed of spring mix in a giant mixing bowl :)
Some typical dinners are shrimp and rice; roasted chicken, sweet potatoes and veggies; salmon and rice with a roasted veggie; or sometimes whole grain pancakes with sunny side up eggs :)
Dinners are usually 1000-1200 calories”
Do you rely much on protein shakes, or gels, or cbd oil or items like that?
“I drink protein and carb shakes post workout to help get the calories and nutrients I need for recovery. It is quick and easy to consume a shake/drink and helps supplement my breakfast. Sometimes during competition I will have gummy or gel type carbohydrate sources to help meet carb needs, but not during typical training days or normal day to day”.
Is there anything unusual in your gym bag (hockey ball, tonnes of hair clips, etc)?
“I have lacrosse balls in my gym bag to help mobilize my knees and also roll out my arches on my feet. I have extra hair ties, perfume, and a tube of preparation H for rips (it helps coat the raw skin on my hands if I rip…fortunately I don’t have to use it often and that’s its only use!)”