Dani Stevens is an athlete on a mission. Having smashed a 20-year old record with 68.26m to win gold at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year, the discus thrower now has her sights set on joining the select group of women to throw further than 70 metres.
Currently in the form of her life, Stevens says the choices she makes about nutrition play a crucial role in supporting her training.
“Food and nutrition play a very important role in my performance. I like to stick to healthy whole foods as part of a balanced meal plan with as little processed or sugary foods as possible,” she says.
“I really enjoy cooking and finding healthy, different meals that taste nice and help fuel my training, so I’m always on the lookout for healthy substitutes and recipes.”
Stevens understands healthy eating is a choice, not an obligation. She has a really good body awareness of how different foods make her feel, which helps guide food choices so that she feels the best she can for training and life. “Over the last few years I’ve really tried to mindful of how food makes me feel – sluggish and fatigued if I’ve had too much sugar, or energetic and light when I have eaten a healthier balance of foods.
“I can really feel the difference in my training quality and I don’t have that 3pm slump that I used to when I was younger.”
(Image credit: Getty Images)
On a typical training day, Stevens’ routine looks something like this:
My breakfast is a “pancake” mixture of oats, egg whites and an egg mixed together and cooked like a pancake in the fry pan. Served with a spread of natural peanut butter and a flat white!
My mid-morning snack is usually a protein shake mixed with berries or banana which I consume about halfway through my first session. I started doing this about 18 months ago, and the quality of the back half of my sessions increased as I was getting a boost of energy, my concentration was better and the overall quality of my throwing was a lot better.
Other snacks I love are a chobani yoghurt with fruit, natural peanut butter on rice cakes, hummus with carrots, and any sort of nuts are always good.
A typical lunch is some lean meat (either a can of tuna or chicken breast pieces), healthy fats like half an avocado or nuts, or olive oil if it’s on salad, salad/veggies, and a good source of carbohydrates such as sweet potato, quinoa and brown rice.
I’ve also been reading about the importance of gut health so I try to add in a serve of fermented veg with lunch – lately it’s been kimchi which adds a bit of kick as well.
Dinner is a lean portion of meat, a salad or veggie mix. If it’s salad, I’ll add healthy fats similar to lunch (avocado, nuts, or olive oil), and if I’m cooking the veggies, I’ll stir fry them in coconut oil.
With time comes experience, and Stevens has learned the importance of balance in her diet to maintaining a healthy body and a healthy mind.
“I’ve been super strict with my diet before and it’s just not sustainable for long periods of time. There are times when you have to be a bit tighter with diet, like when approaching a major competition, however I’ve found that treating myself once a week keeps me happier – my go-to is dark chocolate!”
With the right diet and a winning attitude, Stevens is more than ready to take on her next challenge as she looks to beat the 70-metre mark. “I’ve got a better relationship with food now than what I did when I was younger,” she says. “And I’m leaner because I’m fueling my body correctly.”