We all love some good food. A hearty meal can kickstart the day in the right way or turn a frown upside down.
It also goes without saying that food is a crucial part of life. What we eat and drink can influence our emotions, productivity, and general health.
This is especially true for elite athletes. A lot of energy is needed to fuel their rigorous regimes.
But they can often overlook a balanced diet to focus on tactics and fitness training.
Whether it’s because they don’t know how to cook or don’t see the need to, many athletes will rely on others to cook for them.
It can mean they are not in control of their food intake which could hinder performances.
With that in mind, Sport Wales have built a shiny new kitchen at their Sophia Garden base in Cardiff to encourage athletes to improve their cooking skills.
Acting lead nutritionist at Sport Wales, Eoghan Hickey, claims: “It’s all about the numbers game.”
He explains: “In a four-year cycle, an athlete will typically eat and drink about 8,000 times, which surprises a lot of people.
“It is often double the amount that they’ll train or compete.”
“Every one of those 8,000 is an opportunity that we would see to either recover, fuel for the next session, or just generally maintain good health and immunity.
“If the athletes can chip away at those 8,000 meals to make them more performance-focused and just better for their overall health, from a nutrition perspective, we see that as a huge positive.”
Building a kitchen may not sound like a revolutionary concept, but building one just for athlete development puts Wales a step ahead of the game.
The innovative kitchen is located at the Sports Wales National Centre building. It combines culinary and educational tools to produce a space where athletes can enhance their cooking knowledge.
“The same way an S and C coach needs a gym, we would view the kitchen as our gym,” explains Hickey.
“It’s our space to coach athletes in the practical skills they need, rather than just the theoretical one of telling them how they should be eating.”
“It’s the first of its kind. And to my knowledge, in the UK, I believe it’s the first of this type of bespoke facility just to train athletes in kitchen coaching skills.”
Originally thought of in 2018, the kitchen has been a well thought out process, spearheaded by the Sport Wales nutrition team.
“It’s definitely been a bit of a slog at times” says Hickey.
“There was great momentum within the initial planning and building phase. Then, there was a big spanner in the works, and then it was sort of intermittent between different lockdowns.”
After three years of on-off development, the new kitchen is finally open for business.
The first session took place on January 13th, with two athletes from GB Boxing being the first to cook up a dish.
The pair used the tools at their disposal to whip up a few tasty milkshakes and curry dishes.
Not exactly MasterChef or The Great British Bake Off, but the athletes are chasing gold medals – not trying to impress Paul Hollywood.
When it comes to what’s inside the kitchen, the fancy gadgets and top range tech has been pushed aside.
Instead, the space possesses simple tools to replicate what athletes will have access to in their own homes.