We are excited to introduce Dr Julia Bone, who has recently joined HPSNZ as a senior performance nutritionist and is the new Nutrition Lead for Rowing NZ. In this issue we get to know Julia and how she aims to help our rowers perform at their best.

Tell us a bit about your background.

I grew up in Dunedin and Invercargill, but I was born in Peru (hence my name being pronounced ‘Hu-li-a’). I’ve just returned to NZ after living in Belfast for a few years, where I worked as a performance nutritionist with athletes from a variety of sports. I’m excited to be back home and to be part of the HPSNZ and Rowing NZ teams.

Have you always been interested in nutrition?

I’ve always loved sport, and as a kid I signed up for anything on offer. I find the human body amazing in what it can do and how far it can be pushed. I also enjoyed science at school, and knew I wanted to do something combining sport and science as a career. My introduction to nutrition came during my first year at university. To me it just made sense that nutrition and exercise go together hand in hand.

I found it fascinating that when or what someone ate, could influence their athletic performance. I knew during my undergrad degree that I wanted to work in high-performance sport with elite athletes. I have been fortunate that my career path has led me to study and work in different countries and sport systems, such as Australia, Ireland and the UK.

What is your philosophy when it comes to sport nutrition?

I love food – it’s a massive part of Peruvian culture, not only in terms of the national dishes (which are delicious!) but also in the way it brings people together. Food is important for fuelling our bodies but it’s also there to be enjoyed on its own and with others. When I work with athletes, I want to make sure that we’re not only fuelling their health, wellbeing and performance but also supporting a love and enjoyment of food outside of training and competition. A big part of that is taking into account the individual food preferences of athletes so that any nutrition advice is individual and specific to them.

What does your role as Nutrition Lead for Rowing NZ involve?

My role includes many different tasks, from providing individual nutrition consults and group nutrition education, monitoring hydration, and working as part of the wider athlete support and operational teams. There are also two nutritionists who work part-time with Rowing NZ, and I co-ordinate and work alongside them so that together we can help the rowers with their individual nutrition needs to support their health and training adaptations, race preparation and competition nutrition strategies.

I also work closely with coaches and other sport science disciplines (such as strength and conditioning and physiology) to ensure the nutrition support is appropriate for the training phase and load; and with the operations team on the logistics of organising catering and food service support for any competition series and overseas campaigns.

Is the way you approach nutrition for our rowers different to how you would approach nutrition for athletes in other sports?

Not really. The philosophy stays the same: food to support health and performance, and the social and food enjoyment. The differences come in the nuances of the sport in terms of what, when and how much they have to eat to meet the different physical demands of rowing, compared to say hockey or athletics.

Are there any foods you wouldn’t go near?

The only foods I don’t touch are those that have gone off or that I seriously dislike! I’m lucky not to have any food allergies. I believe there’s a place for all foods; what changes is what or how much you might have depending on the situation or context (e.g. gym training vs family dinner vs on-water training vs celebrations).

What are some of your favourite foods?

Anything that tastes good! I love food that has flavour. Peruvian foods are my favourites for this reason. One of my favourite dishes is called ‘arroz con pollo’, which translates as rice with chicken. Thai food is up there as well, and of course the humble cheese roll.

One thing that I’ve found works really well is having some ‘kit bag essentials’.

Tell us about how changing an athlete’s nutrition plan can lead to an increase in performance levels or an improvement in general health and wellbeing.

I really enjoy educating athletes, empowering them to be able to adjust their nutrition/food intake to life situations and giving them knowledge that they can put into practice.

One thing that I’ve found works really well is having some ‘kit bag essentials’, some non-perishable foods such as muesli bars, crackers, creamed rice or UHT flavoured milk that athletes can keep in the car or their school bag. They then have food available if they’ve forgotten a snack or haven’t had time to eat what they normally would before training because of school or meetings running late. This means the athlete is able to arrive to training with some fuel on board rather than an empty stomach.

The New Zealand Rowing Championships and the Aon Maadi Regatta aren’t too far away. What foods do you recommend rowers in these events introduce into their daily intake, that may help them maintain the energy levels required for the increase in their training regime?

It’s important to make sure that you increase your food intake as your training and/or intensity increases. If you’re still eating the same amount of food in week seven as you were in week one but you’re training a lot more, then you’re likely under-fuelling. Adding an extra serve of oats, a portion of rice or pasta, an extra one or two slices of toast or a banana to your meal, either before and/or after training, should help with maintaining energy levels and making the most of your training sessions.

How much food to add will differ depending on how much your training increases. It’s also important to think sooner rather than later about what foods you’ll have during the regatta day, and to trial them during training. For example, you don't want to try a new sandwich combo in between races during a regatta and realise your gut doesn't respond well to one of the ingredients. This could cause discomfort where you can't compete to your potential, or at all. Always trial the foods you’ll have on the day, prior to competition. If there’s one golden rule in sports nutrition, that is it!

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Dr Julia Bone

PhD, MDiet Stud, MSc (Human Nutrition), BAppSci (Sport & Exercise Nutrition), Senior Performance Nutritionist, High Performance Sport New Zealand