An impressive two golds, a silver and a bronze at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games is proof of McCulloch’s pedigree as one of Australia’s most prolific track cyclists. But what does she eat to ensure continued success?
Part of being an elite athlete is ensuring your diet is geared towards performance. For McCulloch this means finding a balance between healthy options and what is most important to support training
“I always try to eat clean, which means that I avoid highly processed foods. As a general rule I tend to avoid gluten and lactose as well, but it’s not always possible.
“For the most part I always want protein in my meals as I am always trying to build or keep muscle.
And why is eating right just so important for athletes such as McCulloch, who are at the top of their sport?
“I’ve always seen food as a critical part of performance. The way I like to think about it is that I have a Formula One race car as my body and if I fuelled with E10 fuel I can’t really expect that it would perform at its best.”
“So I always try to fuel with the best kinds of foods and I definitely get a better response from my body if I have eaten well regularly than if I have been inconsistent.
“Like with anything, eating well is a habit and its always difficult beginning after a break but once you get into a rhythm you feel much better for it. If I do then eat a little off course my stomach often feels horrible so that is a good incentive to eat well consistently.”
Eating during training
Diet and nutrition isn’t something that you can leave to the last minute or only think about only at competition. It’s a long game.
“I really believe that all the ‘diet’ gains come really quite early in the off season. If an athlete is trying hard to lose weight or gain weight into a competition then the hard work has been missed.
“To be a good sprint cyclist you need awesome relative strength and power to weight ratio so in the off season I am usually 2-3kg heavier than my race weight. As training tapers off in the last 12 weeks into a race that intake reduces slightly and that last extra bit of fat falls off slowly without losing muscle through timing meals to match training demands.
“At a race I am always at my leanest and best shape but its really only ever a minor change for me”.
McCulloch’s food choices at a glance
On a big training day McCulloch’s balanced breakfast will look something like this:
- 3/4 cup of oats
- 3/4 cup of coconut or almond milk
- One banana
- Two poached eggs on the side
McCulloch has more than simply three meals a day, breaking down lunch and dinner into smaller more frequent meals to factor in her training sessions.
Over the day the cyclist will have five to six meals around training times and every few hours to promote recovery and preparation for the next training session through balanced meals which consist of 100-150g meat or fish, 150g vegetables and 100g or basmati or brown rice, rotating different meats and vegetables for variety in meals.
On rest days she’ll follow a similar plan but space meals out more and add more vegetables and alternate carbohydrates with sweet potato.
“I rely heavily on snacks when I travel and race because I don’t have the luxury of being able to prepare my own meals. Things like rice cakes with cottage cheese, fruit, nuts, yoghurt, toast with jam.”
If you’re looking for snack ideas for athletes here are a bunch.
For a treat
The NSWIS Scholarship Holder understands the idea of balance and going easy on yourself in order to keep your habits consistent.
“On the weekends I always treat myself normally with a brekky out at a nice cafe or dinner out and I never worry about calories or what I am eating in those meals. My go to is ribs or a pasta dish and of course something sweet for dessert” said McCulloch.
“I also sneak in a packet of salt and vinegar chips every now and then.
“I think its still important to treat yourself, even when you are trying to reach a goal.
“It helps make it more achievable when for example you are looking forward to a nice brekky on a Sunday morning rather than thinking you have six weeks until you can have something nice!”
You can find a range of nutrition resources from the NSW Institute of Sport here.