How wrestler Samantha Stewart fuels
— By Casey Jones
The spectacularly strong Samantha Stewart wears many hats in the course of a day: student, blogger, athlete. Pursuing her master’s in education by day at the University of New Brunswick, and training for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by night, Stewart needs to have her nutrition in check.
After narrowly missing the cut for the 2016 Rio Olympic team, Stewart won the senior Pan Am championships soon after. She says that’s the accomplishment she’s most proud of, being the first wrestler based out of New Brunswick to do so.
“There’s so much more to my career than one Olympic trial,” Stewart says over the phone from Fredericton. “That win helped pick me back up after Rio.”
Currently, Stewart’s training twice daily on her journey to Tokyo, and this means fuelling both her mind and body with a wholesome, nutritious diet. In recent months she began working with a dietician who has helped her dial in the specific amounts of what to eat, and when the best time is to do so.
“I always looked as food as fuel and for recovery, but I didn’t have the expertise to say I need this amount of macronutrients, and eat that time before training,” she says of her dietician.
Since becoming more precise with her diet, Stewart finds that she has less fatigue during workouts, improved recovery, and is more in tune with her body. Despite being in a weight-class sport where she has to be wary of weight gain, her dietician actually increased her carbohydrate intake and she has seen performance improvements already.
A sample Sam Stewart diet:
- 3/4 cup 0% Greek Yogurt + 1 cup berries + 2 tbsp almonds
- Black Coffee
Protein Shake (post-workout):
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 scoop protein
- 1 banana
- Sea-salted peanut butter (her favourite!)
Lunch (~2 hours before wrestling practice):
- 4 oz Chicken
- 2 cups non-starchy vegetables (e.g. broccoli, carrots, asparagus)
- ½ tbsp oil
- ½ avocado
Pre-Practice Snack (~30 minutes before):
- Banana or apple with peanut butter
- 4 oz Chicken
- 2 cups non-starchy vegetables
- 1 cup starchy carb (e.g. rice or sweet potato)
- 1 tbsp oil
When going through a weight-cutting period the week before a competition, Stewart’s carbohydrate intake dramatically decreases in an effort to lose excess water weight.
In a stark contrast, the day of competition is laden with carbs. For breakfast, a carb-heavy meal of oatmeal, peanut butter, and banana gets Stewart ready for the day ahead. Depending on timing she may have another small snack, but no competition day is without her go-to treat: pretzels.
As for after a tournament, her favorite meal is pizza, as she recently enjoyed in Italy.
Dealing with cravings
Stewart has several tips for snacking, dealing with cravings, and dieting. Her favourite snack is greek yogurt, which is chalk full of protein and no fat. Some yogurts even contain probiotics that can help your gut and digestion.
With a strict diet, Stewart finds that she craves sugar often. To help curb this craving she makes different kinds of iced teas with small additions (only ¼ tablespoon) of honey. She also has 70 per cent dark chocolate occasionally.
When asked about tips on healthy eating, Stewart emphasizes that “Your diet has to be something that’s realistic. If you have favorite foods, incorporate them into your diet somehow.”
This means making a healthier version of hamburgers or pizza for instance, because she “loves bacon cheeseburgers, too.” She also recommends measuring using a small food scale or measuring cup, because miniscule additions of calorically dense food such as meat or oils can make all the difference when dieting.
With a little bit of consistency and proper planning of meals, you can easily achieve a clean and healthy diet, too. Even after all the strict dieting that Stewart undergoes as a national team wrestler, she stresses that you can “still eat the foods you love but make them healthier.”
Casey Jones is a master's in science student at Dalhousie University, where he studies the link between the human microbiome and pediatric Crohn’s disease in Nova Scotians.