Lynn Harvey (35) is a professional boxer. Originally from Kilbarrack in Dublin, Lynn began boxing at age 30, turning professional a year and a half ago. To date she has two professional fights and will be back fighting in February 2017.
Where do you shop?
I shop in my local butchers ‒ O’Brien’s Butchers in Kilbarrack. I buy things like rice and sweet potatoes in the local Centra, Lidl or Aldi. I get all my supplements from Absolute Nutrition & Fitness on the Malahide Road. They sponsor my vitamins, BCAAs (amino acids) and other supplements.
Can you list the contents of your weekly shop?
Steak, chicken breasts, lean turkey mince, eggs, sweet potatoes, rice, wholemeal pasta and chocolate, always chocolate and porridge. Mandarins and bananas though not as much as I should. I used to eat a lot of spinach salads and things like that but I was struggling with energy and my dietician said I wasn’t eating enough carbohydrates.
Describe your typical breakfast
Turkey mince and rice or chicken and pasta. I add spice to the meat. I buy Uncle Ben’s easy cook spicy rice. Tea ‒ I drink a lot of tea. I probably drink 10 cups of tea a day. I am trying to drink more water. I don’t drink caffeine as I find it aggravates things like anxiety so I drink no coffee and I drink caffeine-free tea at home. I have a BCAA supplement once a day in one litre of water.
Describe your typical lunch
If I’ve had chicken and pasta for breakfast then I’ll have turkey mince and rice. I’ll probably have a bar of chocolate after lunch and dinner. I know I eat too much chocolate ‒ I’ll have to cut back but because I have no problem with my weight I have no incentive to not eat it.
I don’t really have three meals a day ‒ more like four or five small meals a day made up of meat and a carb like rice or pasta. Lowcal Meals Delivered, the healthy meal delivery service, sponsored me in the run up to one of my fights and it changed the way I eat now. I felt so much better ‒ the more rice and pasta I eat, the more I can manage my weight ‒ I burn more fat as I’ve more energy. I eat regularly during the day as I don’t like the feeling of being really full or of being hungry so I eat little and often so I am satisfied all day. I think it helps my metabolism too so I feel leaner when I eat that way.
I eat Eat Natural bars. Four times a week if I am running around I’ll go into Centra and get a chicken Tikka salad bowl with greens and beans ‒ it has spinach, beans, lentil and quinoa. Bananas and mandarins (though not as much as I should).
Is there anything you won’t eat?
White bread and specifically white baguettes ‒ they sit in your stomach and make you feel horrible. Chinese takeaway ‒ I don’t know how people can eat that, especially chicken balls with the grease squirting out of them.
What would you cook to impress someone?
Fillet steak, chips, onions, mushrooms and pepper sauce. Or perhaps sweet potato fries done in the oven. Mostly because this is also what I like to eat! If I was to cook a dessert it would be apple crumble or chocolate cake or I’d buy a baked American-style vanilla cheesecake.
What is your guilty food pleasure?
Chocolate, which is a daily thing for me ‒ my favourite being Cadbury’s Wholenut ‒ I eat around two of them a day. And cheesecake.
What is your ultimate comfort food?
A nice steak dinner with sweet potato chips and pepper sauce. Or a coddle which reminds me of being a child in the 1980s, of cold winter days and of feeling lovely and cosy inside. It’s nostalgic plus because it’s full of fat, it’s not something I’d eat everyday.
What is your favourite takeaway?
I rarely eat takeaway ‒ maybe only once every three months or so. If I am ordering a takeaway I’ll order a nice fresh chicken korma with rice from The Indian Curry Club in Kilbarrack.
Have you tried any diet fads?
Not really ‒ I’ve never struggled with my weight so I haven’t really. I remember doing a no-carb diet after I had my son nine years ago but I don’t want to be seen to advocate that because I don’t think it’s a healthy way of living. I certainly don’t stand by it or think it’s healthy ‒ it made me feel very tired and drained and I wouldn’t recommend it. I don’t agree with fad diets I think a healthy balanced diet and little and often is the best way to go, not just for a sportsperson but for everyone.
What would be your last supper?
A chicken and broccoli bake that my Mam used to make years ago and a strawberry and cream pavlova.
As a professional athlete, good nutrition is an important part of Lynn’s life and it’s clear that she takes it seriously. It’s great to see that she focuses of whole foods, with lean protein, high-fibre carbs, fruit and vegetables featuring heavily. She eats a balanced diet and doesn’t believe in cutting carbs, as high energy levels are crucial to her training.
Lynn buys a lot of sweet potatoes, which have grown enormously in popularity amongst those interested in health and fitness. They’re a superb source of high-fibre, complex carbohydrate and a vast array of nutrients, including beta-carotene which gives sweet potato that vibrant orange colour. Lynn also eats plenty of rice to support her energy levels throughout the day, and brown or wholegrain rice is generally a better choice as it’s higher in fibre and certain vitamins, and supplies a more steady stream of energy.
Lynn’s breakfast is very much focused on protein and quality carbs to fuel her training. It’s a great idea to eat this way in the morning, as the protein helps to support recovery and growth of lean muscle mass, while the rice and pasta boost her energy levels. Many people eat too much refined sugar and white flour products, and particularly for breakfast in the form of sugary cereal and pastries, so this is a far better meal option. Adding some steamed greens on the side, such as broccoli, spinach or kale, would boost the nutrient levels in her breakfast even further. The chlorophyl in green vegetables is thought to support healthy blood, which would benefit an active woman like Lynn.
For lunch, Lynn concentrates once again on a protein such as turkey alongside a carb in the form of rice. She also eats smaller meals more consistently throughout the day, which many people find helps to sustain their energy levels and concentration during the day. It also helps people to listen to their bodies more and eat when they’re genuinely hungry, rather than having to eat a large meal at a set time. Again, my advice would be to add some green or colourful vegetables for their antioxidants, vitamins A and C, and numerous other health benefits.
Lynn’s evening meals follow a similar pattern, and it’s great that she has figured out that eating this way helps her to manage her weight while ensuring her energy levels are the best that they can be. However, as an athlete, she can afford to eat more food and higher quantities of carbs without it affecting her weight. For more sedentary people, eating rice and pasta plus chocolate everyday would likely make a difference to their weight.
While Lynn considers herself lucky that her daily chocolate bars don’t make a difference to her body composition, it’s still quite a lot of refined sugar to consume on a daily basis. Refined sugar may cause mood and energy fluctuations, plus it’s considered an addictive type of food and the sugar addiction cycle that can be difficult to break. Dark chocolate is a better option than milk or white, as it’s lower in sugar.
Finally, I would suggest that Lynn ensures that she’s receiving enough omega-3 fat everyday. She may already supplement it, but good food sources include walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds, plus oily fish.
The small tweaks I would suggest to Lynn include adding more vegetables and trying to cut down on her sugar intake, but otherwise her diet is clearly ideal for her lifestyle and activity levels. Well done Lynn!