“We can't always do the things we know are good for us, so what are the easy wins to help us at these times?” – Sinéad Bradbury MSc SENr on creating heathier habits at home. Sinéad offers advice on how to fuel our bodies and minds for the pressures of everyday life.
As a busy mum of three and a lead Performance Nutritionist at Galway GAA, Sinéad Bradbury advocates that performance is just as important whether you are on or off the pitch.
Sinéad, who started her career in business and marketing, turned to nutrition before setting up her consultancy business and specialising in sports nutrition.
Today, she works with clients on a one-to-one basis as well as several sports teams and corporate businesses. She has also worked with the Irish Defence Forces on nutrition for soldiers and recruits and works closely with the Irish Super Supplement brand Revive Active.
She aims to help busy working men and women understand and implement healthier habits to improve their overall energy and wellbeing.
We caught up with Sinéad to discuss everything from the curse of cutting carbs to the importance of rest.
"What I'm trying to do is help people who have demands on their time, whether they're at work or at home," Sinéad explains.
"Performance extends beyond the athlete. They have everything there for them; they have physios, doctors, massages, and nutritionists, but outside of sports, there are so many demands on people. So they need tools and techniques to keep them well as well."
Sinéad says that while we may not think of ourselves as high-performance individuals, she believes that shifting to that perspective can help us to prioritise our health.
"It all comes back to performance. We know and understand that athletes fuel, hydrate and have healthy habits. They're organised because they want to perform in their sport.
"We want to perform at work and in our home life. We want to be a good version of ourselves, yet we're not thinking of fuelling ourselves for this work. And we're not respecting the act of recovery like they do in sports.
"The best performances I see in sport are rested and nourished. Players who perform well feel well, and I think it's the same in our own lives. If we feel well, we perform well. We're more patient and tolerant, and I think we need that now more than ever."
Quite often, the first few months of the year can trigger many to jump into a drastic new lifestyle. However, Sinead says it is essential to be properly fuelled, especially when upping our exercise regime.
"Because people may be trying to get fit and healthy, they might exercise more, and what they might do on top off that is cut carbohydrates. They hear (incorrectly) that carbohydrates are fat promoting, but that's not the case. We need carbohydrates for energy, and we need them for fuel intensity. So any increase in exercise needs an increase in the right types of carbohydrates, so you're not craving sugar.
"On a non-training day," she continues, "a quarter of your plate should be carbohydrates, a quarter should be protein, and then half your plate should be vegetables or salad. And then the carbohydrates should be increased slightly on a training day. Even moderate exercisers need to increase the right types of carbohydrates."
On a scale of one to ten
Sinéad says that self-awareness and slowly building up to a healthier lifestyle is the most sustainable approach for those looking to make long-term improvements. She works on a simple scale of one to ten and uses it to keep track of her own wellbeing day to day.
"What I try and do when I deal with clients is ask where they are on the scale. So 10/10 is perfect health - which doesn't exist, by the way. But an elite athlete needs to be an eight or a nine pre-competition. Fuelling, recovering, supplements, rest, sleep, the whole thing.
"I see clients at 3/10. They're depleted, with fatigue, stress, and overwhelmed. And the mistake people can make is they try to go from three to nine. They'll try doing a three-week detox or something, focusing on deprivation to try and get up the ladder, to be fit and healthy.
"Whereas if I meet an individual at 3/10, I say, let's get to four, let's get to five and get to six. You have to start where you're at.
"I would consider myself 7/10. I don't really want to be higher. I can't be higher with my busy lifestyle. But if I don't manage myself correctly, I can dip to six or five. Below five is the danger zone. So six to eight is what I consider high health status."
Sinéad explains that breaking the cycle can be done through simple steps, from making time for rest to taking a multivitamin.
"If you're below 5/10, you know what you should be doing, but you're not able to do it. You're just in a vicious cycle of doing all the wrong things; living off coffee and sugar, being on the go and skipping meals. There are a lot of people like that.
"After working on this for over fifteen years, I've learned that lifestyle is where I start first with clients, not food. Get sleep, get rest, put in some boundaries, clear a weekend, gain sleep, and get to four or five.
"Maybe start with a supplement that's going to have an impact and support you. By creeping up the ladder, all of a sudden, you go, I have a bit more energy now, with the rest and recovery, and by prioritising myself. You might then want to move more, and then you might tend to crave more of the right foods."
The Power of One
Sinéad works closely with the Irish Super Supplement brand Revive Active and is a fan of the one sachet movement.
"I love The Power of One campaign that Revive Active have. When you're guiding yourself as a busy person, relationships are very important within the work I choose. And I love working with Revive Active; I believe in them. They care, they're creative, they're Galway-based, and I'm from Galway, so I love working with them. I also believe in the products and recommended them to the teams I worked with before I had a relationship with Revive Active."
Revive Active’s hero product also called Revive Active contains 11 Vitamins, seven Minerals, six Amino Acids, 150mg CoQ10 and 3,000 L-Arginine in one sachet, which Sinead says can help to kickstart healthy habits.
"If you are depleted and struggling to get back to your good habits, having a sachet you can take in the morning with water can kickstart the feeling that you are prioritising yourself.
"It's that little bit of support to help you kick start that healthier you, and it can also help to maintain wellness if you're going through a busy time.
"It's all about checking in where you are at. We can't always do the things we know are good for us, so what are the easy wins to help us at these times? I think a good, quality supplement has a space there.
"And you don't need to take a supplement all year round if you don't want to. There are certain times of the year and certain times in your life when you might need it more. The general rule of thumb that I use is three months on, one month off. Give it three months to really make a difference, integrate it into your lifestyle and get that boost that you require."