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‘Food First’ the motto for Clare hurling nutritionist

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Grainne Travers leads a life every young hurling enthusiast can look up to.

From a psychology major graduating from UCC at the turn of the century to leading the charge as the nutritionist responsible for the health and well being of the entire Clare Hurling Senior Panel, Grainne is undoubtedly at the epicentre of it all. Her studies led her to the Institute of Health Sciences in Dublin, where she studied nutrition therapy, a densely collated course of which she now delivers classes as a lecturer. Grainne works full time at the Nutrition Room, where she consults both athletes and patients on medical issues in relation to nutrition.

Grainne’s induction into the Clare set-up came about two years ago, when she was brought in as the very first nutritionist to work with the senior hurling squad. “Gerry O’ Connor gave me a call and asked me to come in and meet with several of the senior players on the panel, in an interview style. Shortly afterwards he took me on board. We had an excellent strength and conditioning coach on board but it was different to have someone solely focused on nutrition. It isn’t a one size fits all approach for nutrition. For some it was to build muscle, others to lose weight, the physical impact of stress they were under and some of them had digestive issues. My motto was always food first.”

Grainne found a way to lighten the load of rigorous and regimented food and supplementation plans. Cooking was seen as an outlet for those players less enthusiastic and allowed them to espouse an interest in the foods they were eating, “I got them to start cooking. Once you are touching, feeling and smelling food the interest comes. The majority of the lads were outstanding to work with and they had such a keen interest and took everything on board. We used devices like My Fitness Pal to record their food intake but more importantly, I asked them to listen to their body. I would have strongly encouraged the players to do this.”

The typical diet of a Clare Senior Hurling player eschews processed foods and includes a variety of lean meats, fish as well as a generous amount of fruit and vegetables. Grainne denotes both Podge Collins and John Conlon as two of the more meticulous players when it comes to following a meal plan. Grainne’s integration into the team led her into the technicalities of the players health, such as investigating the impact of gut bacteria and its subsequent effect on players mental and physical well-being.

Grainne works closely with a variety of coaches and staff in terms of assisting the players to achieve peak performance come game day. “I would have worked closely with Michael Clancy of the Sherwood to produce quality meals for the players. Michael and I would have sat down and planned out pre and post-match meals and introduced numerous foods and diets to the players. I would have frequent meetings with the strength and conditioning coach as well as working closely with the local GP in terms of looking at the blood results of players that were having blood sugar dips at work.”

A recent shake-up of management saw Grainne touch on the sentimental side, “they were excellent to work with and it comes from their own professional background. They were so approachable and they really had the players well-being centre-stage at all times. Frequently Gerry and Donal would ring me up to ask how certain players were doing and they really had their best interests at heart. In terms of the future, I’m looking forward to seeing the next Clare manager because there is a huge talent there within the team itself.”

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