Catching up with Kat Darry, All Blacks nutritionist

Kat Darry, All Blacks nutritionist, smiling on the sideline at a rugby match

At AIG, we know that staying well doesn’t just mean adding an extra set of squats to your morning workout or jogging an extra lap of the block. It’s about what you eat too.


 shona-smith.jpg Author: Shona Smith

Wednesday 17 February 2021

 

Sometimes getting started on your nutrition mission can be the hardest part - and that’s where we come in.

As official sponsors of New Zealand Rugby, we’ve learnt a thing or two about how to lead a healthy lifestyle, and that expert support is extended to our customers through Smart Health. Our multi-award winning health and wellbeing service.

So we caught up with Kat Darry, the All Blacks’ nutritionist, to get the inside line on what the team eats and to quiz her on her top tips for 'food that makes you feel good.’

Kat Darry answers our questions

Q: Kat, why is tailoring nutrition plans so important?

A: So, the nutritional needs of each individual player is hugely important, and something that’s a real focus for the All Blacks. We always try and meet those needs, based on their genetic background, food tastes, the position they play and their training load.

For example, there are different nutrient needs for someone who is a prop compared to a number eight, compared to a winger. Whilst some of that focus is around supporting bulk, a prop will eat more protein based on their workload being power and strength based, whereas a winger would need more carbs because they’re aerobic based.

Your Smart Health support: With Smart Health, you’ve got a team of expert nutritionists at your fingertips. The tailored weekly plans and menus are designed for your needs - whether you’re looking to go vegetarian/vegan, want to chat about portion sizes or just need some advice about healthy eating in general. Get started and book an appointment here.

 

Q: So what does a typical All Black eat in a day?

A: Before a morning training session, it’s definitely something like a bowl of porridge with berries or eggs on toast with avocado. And lunches or dinners are normally a portion of protein (e.g. meat, chicken, fish), a portion of carbohydrates (things like rice or potatoes) and then salad or vegetables.

It differs a little bit for game day - pre-match is regulated as part of our preparation and is primarily based around carbohydrates. There’s more carbs after a game too, as part of fuel recovery, but they also would have a protein shake, as quality protein is really key in helping their muscles recover.

Q: Any favourite foods from inside the camp? Do they ever indulge in a treat?

A: There’s always got to be some balance and moderation - so yes, they have a sweet treat from time to time. Our Sunday recovery day allows for a bit of variation in their diet and food intake and we encourage soul food - food that makes you feel good.

Some of the players’ favourites are sushi and sashimi, lamb shanks or chops and apple crumble!

Your Smart Health support: Want to eat like an All Black for yourself? Look no further - we’ve gathered together some recipes from players past and present in our interactive cookbook. So whether it’s the Ioane’s fillet of beef or Dane Coles’ sponge cake, you’re sure to find a new family favourite inside. Get cooking!

 

Q: We’re really interested in the link between nutrition and mental health - does what you eat affect how you feel?

A: Absolutely. For me, the key to feeling good is using real, whole foods. We generally advise players to maintain a distance from processed foods which have little nutrients and lots of artificial additives - they don’t promote good performance.

Your Smart Health support: Our team of Smart Health nutritionists are on hand to offer advice and suggestions on how to eat well to feel well.  The ‘good mood food’ guide is packed with tips on how fuelling your body with the right nutrition can support you both mentally and physically. Download it here.

 

Q: And finally - in your role as a nutritionist, do you work with other experts in the players’ support staff to ensure their whole health and lifestyle is balanced?

A: Yes, my role is part of the All Blacks wellbeing team. I work closely with the strength and conditioning coach, the team doctor, our physiotherapists and masseurs - it’s a truly holistic approach to living a healthy lifestyle, both physical and mental.

Your Smart Health support: The great news when it comes to Smart Health is that it’s not just one service - it’s six. You can access an online GP, have a health check, access advice from a fitness coach, get a second medical opinion or chat to a psychologist about your mental health, all on top of the nutrition support. Smart Health is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with no limits on how many times you can use it. There’s also access for your family too, including your partner and any children aged up to 21. Start your Smart Health journey.