My Interview With An Olympian (ABOUT FOOD!)

It’s not every day that you get to interview an Olympian, so you can only imagine my excitement when professional runner and Canadian Olympian Erin Teschuk agreed to speak with me about FOOD! ( duh).

I discovered Erin on social media during Canadian Tire’s #WeAllPlayForCanada campaign for which we were both ambassadors.

I had the cool idea of interviewing her on her thoughts and experiences with food and nutrition as I knew it would make a great blog post for my followers, many of whom are female and like to run.

Luckily for me, she agreed!

Who Is Erin Teschuk?

Hailing from Manitoba, Erin ( now 23 years of age) received an athletic scholarship for running from North Dakota State University (NDSU) out of high school.

In her third year at NDSU she started to deliver breakthrough performances and was able to run the World ‘A Standard’ in steeplechase, her primary event.

Now you might be wondering what steeplechase is, and Erin describes it as “a 3k with hurdles and one water barrier every lap

Her performance in that particular race allowed her to quality for the 2015 Pan Am games, which ultimately turned into representing Canada in Steeplechase at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

She then signed with running shoe titan Asics and moved to South Carolina to pursue a career as a full time professional runner with the Furman Elite group, which is coached by two time American Olympian Robert Gary.

Her lifetime of hard work and remarkable accomplishments led her to the absolute pinnacle for any athlete, being interviewed by the one and only Andy The RD ( Sorry Erin, had to tell it like it is!).

My Interview (About Food!) with an Olympian

Rather than transcribe our questions and answers word for word, I transformed Erin’s responses into thematic groupings which represent her thoughts and feelings towards food and nutrition.

For context, Erin started out her running career as someone who did not spend much time thinking about what she ate ( “Whatever was in my parents house”) and evolved into a professional athlete with a commendable relationship with, and understanding of, food and nutrition.

Theme #1 –  Value advice from all angles

I obviously started off the interview by asking Erin if she had ever sought the advice of a dietitian in her career as a runner and, to my great joy, she had but she didn’t stop there.

She has also relied on guidance from fellow pro runners and Athletics Canada physicians, both groups having extensive knowledge specific to the performances and experiences of elite runners.

According to her, some of the best advice she has ever gotten (and that all you runners out there could keep in mind too) includes:

1) The importance of eating more on training days due to increased needs and energy expenditure.

2) The importance of adequate carbohydrate intake in the hours or even days prior to training/events (for fuel) and adequate carbohydrate + protein intake after training (for recovery + re-fueling ).

3) Perhaps most importantly, the importance of figuring out what works best for YOU.

Theme #2 – No one knows what’s best for you, but you ( AKA embrace trial & error)

As much as I wish she had some epic story about a superstar dietitian who changed her career, Erin was honest in letting me know that some of the most important lessons she learned about properly fueling herself came down to figuring out what worked best for her through experience, trial and error.

So with that being said, I had to ask her what experience taught her to be the best pre-training meal.

I know what athletes eat before activity  is a hot topic and you guys will be thrilled to hear that, about 1-2 hours before training, Erin usually goes for oatmeal, peanut butter and a banana ( which is pretty much EVERYONE on Instagram’s favourite food).

She said it keeps her full enough, for long enough and keeps her stomach feeling good while running, which is a very important consideration.

If she has a bigger race or competition, Erin opts for a larger meal (usually including her favourite carbs: either squash , sweet potatoes, pasta or rice with some form of protein) either 3-4 hours, or the night before, depending on the situation.

Theme #3 Dedication, not obsession

In the age of counting calories, macros and everything in between, I had to ask this elite athlete how intensively she approached her diet.

When I asked her if she had ever restricted her caloric intake she replied firmly “Never”

When I asked her if she had ever counted her calories/macros, she replied firmly “Never”

Her responses are a refreshing reminder that, no matter what people on social media may say, these potentially burdensome activities are not prerequisites for success in athletics ( even if some people may benefit it from them).

Theme #4 Athlete’s like smoothies and pizza too

I think it’s safe to say that anyone who has ever worked out has debated or looked up what to eat “post-workout”, so I asked Erin to share her favourite go-to.

Her response?

“A smoothie with frozen fruit, greek yogurt, milk, flax, chia, banana, spinach”

When I asked her about why there was no protein powder? “Nah, I can get it from my diet.”

So guess what guys, protein powder is not an essential ingredient to being an elite athlete.

Who would have guessed! It’s as if she read my most recent guest article on protein powder already!

So obviously my next question was:

What is your favourite food that the average person perceives as “unhealthy”

“Pizza… I eat it multiple times a week and I don’t consider it unhealthy!”

Pretty darn perfect response and one that I know you guys will be thrilled to hear.

Conclusion: Athletes = Normal Humans with better abs!

Theme #5  Focus on cutting race times, not food groups

When I asked Erin about the breadth of her current dietary pattern, she gave me some firm responses:

“No low carb, no low fat”

I don’t cut out any foods, I don’t restrict any food groups. It’s a trend right now that I am NOT a fan of”

Music to this dietitian’s ears and very important messages for so many of us to hear.

Erin’s Advice To You

Personal experience is oh so valuable so I had to end our interview by asking Erin what pieces og advice she would give to all of the novice runners and weekend warriors reading today’s blog.

Here’s what she said:

Number One: Enjoy variety in your diet and balance the core healthy foods with stuff you enjoy. I believe that restriction is detrimental in the long term as it takes away the joy of eating and could actually lead to poorer dietary habits in the end by causing you to quickly bore of your food choices.

Number Two: Don’t obsess about your diet. Be aware of the connection between your performance and dietary intake but know that there are a ton of variables that impact your running week-to-week. With that being said, it is definitely smart to re-visit your dietary pattern from time to time, especially if you suspect it may be impacting your performance (a sports RD can help!).

Final Thoughts

I feel very fortunate to be in a position to speak to inspirational people like Erin about their thoughts and experiences with food and I hope you guys found what she had to say insightful  and intriguing as I did.

For someone whose career relies so much on physical performance, she has a refreshing and balanced perspective on food and nutrition and this is something that I think we could all learn from.

Before we go my final ask is that you guys thank Erin for her time by giving her an Instagram follow.

Maybe even give her a call on the banana phone and wish her luck on her next race too!

Until next time,

Andy De Santis RD MPH