Heather Hynes

Sport Nutritionist
Sport Medicine and Science Council of Saskatchewan

"It makes you very involved in sports in a way that you never thought you would be."

Heather Hynes ensure proper nutrition for athletes

"It makes you very involved in sports in a way that you never thought you would be."

As the saying goes, You are what you eat. In sports, Heather Hynes feels that how effective you are depends on what you eat.

Hynes is a sports nutritionist with the Sport Medicine & Science Council of Saskatchewan. For nine years, she has been teaching athletes the importance of getting proper nutrition.

"You have to be very efficient with the calories that you're consuming," she said. "It's quite a science. It's a lot more than, 'Go eat your fruits and veggies'."

Hynes was involved in speed swimming when she was younger, starting off recreationally and then advanced to the competitive level. As she was swimming, she always felt that her eating patterns had a huge impact on her performance in the water. This realization led her toward her current career path. She earned her BSc in Nutrition from the University of Saskatchewan in 2002 and her MSc in Exercise Physiology at the U of S in 2009.

She works closely with athletes, helping them create structured eating plans.

"It's all about organizing their eating world and their training world a bit better," said Hynes. "When an athlete is on a provincial team or above, I either work with them in a team or individual setting, and we talk about fueling strategies for training: when to eat, what to have, how much to have of it. Or we talk about competition planning. If you have a game at 9 a.m., what are you having the night before? What do you have in the morning of? What are you taking to the venue with you? And then I do a lot of individual consultations."

The plan usually differs between each athlete.

"Some of them have specific questions like, 'I weight train at this time and I have my sport training at this time. What should I eat? How much of it should I have?' Others just say, 'I want to eat better' because their performance is lacking because of their eating habits," she said.

Hynes adds that she has to consider other factors such as underlying medical conditions as well as training, school and family schedules. "For some people it's kind of like a total overhaul, but you want to go at that slowly as to not to scare them away. For others, it's just fine-tuning the timing."

Although Hynes doesn't personally take credit for the success the athletes she works with achieve, it is rewarding to see them compete at a high level. "When an athlete achieves a medal at a Commonwealth games or World Championship and says, 'Thank you, you had a big impact on my career,' then that's great" she said. "We've had some great performances from Saskatchewan athletes recently, so that's always rewarding."

For Hynes, it demonstrates how a shift in focus to sports nutrition has been beneficial. When she first started her job in 2002, she was one of only a handful of sports nutritionists working with Canadian Sports Centres across the country. Now, she said, there will be cities that have four or five people in that position.

"Now it's a matter of, 'Who's your team sport dietitian?' " Hynes said. "It makes you very involved in sports in a way that you never thought you would be."

As Hynes explains, the benefits of preparing a proper nutrition plan go beyond better performance in sports.

"I think that the impact that physical activity has on the human body is very important, whether that results in an Olympic performance or not," she said. "Any kind of physical activity that someone can do for the fun is really where amateur sport comes in.

"If it leads them down a path toward a higher level then that's great. If it leads down a path of physically activity for life then that's even better."

Athletes learn about proper sports nutrition