• Physical Wellbeing
  • Article
  • Mental Wellbeing
  • Nutrition and Health
  • Video
  • Interview


How Nick Ross Fuels the Body + Mind for Ultimate Performance


  • Physical Wellbeing
  • Article
  • Mental Wellbeing
  • Nutrition and Health
  • Video
  • Interview
Q: How was your experience at the Hockey World Cup?

The Hockey World Cup this year was in India, and I was very excited to travel there with my teammates. India is an amazing place to play hockey, they love it nearly as much as they love cricket! A highlight was our top 16 knock out game was against India, who were home favourites for a medal (and they had the home crowd as the hosts). We managed to beat them on a penalty shootout which was an absolutely surreal moment! It’s always a great feeling when all the hard work and preparation pays off on the field. 


Q: As an athlete, you undertake a lot of physical training in the lead up to matches. What is your training schedule and how do you fit it around work?

Hockey is my sports career that demands physical and mental performance – but alongside this, I have a full-time corporate career that is fast-paced and requires my best performance as well. 

Leading up to an event like the Hockey World Cup, I’m usually training five times per week, with running and strength programmes on top of that. A training week includes at least one session per day, sometimes two, and one rest day. Leading into a tour, the squad will also have dedicated training camps for a more intense training block, with two sessions per day. 

It takes a lot of organising to balance this intense training workload with my corporate workload and my personal life and responsibilities. Organising your week to balance a full-time job with full time training, means training before and after work. To support all this intensity, nutrition is key. Getting the fuel required to make sure you can train early in the morning, work a full day, and train again after work. If you don’t get your nutrition right from the very start of the week, you won’t be able to keep performing by the end of the week, as you will burn out. 

It’s also important to not only fuel my physical resilience, but my mental resilience and focus when there is a lot going on and I need to be able to focus on each task and goal in front of me. Having an understanding and supportive network of family, friends and colleagues (both on and off the field) makes all the difference here.

Q: Let us in on your diet during training and competitions. Do you do anything differently with your nutrition to help you set up for optimal performance and recovery?

I have been playing elite hockey for a decade, so the lifestyle of regular training and good nutrition is imbedded in my day-to-day habits and mentality now. Under intense training blocks, I am extra mindful of getting enough energy to optimise my performance, and I eat well afterwards to recover. A whole-foods diet is the base of any good training diet, but I also top up with protein fortified drinks for recovery, electrolytes for hydration, and vitamins for immune support while the body is under training stress. 

Topping up with supplements is even more crucial in a tournament setting, where we play a match every second day, so at times, we have less than 48 hours turnaround. This puts even more emphasis on recovery and resilience. Some international tournaments have tighter and intensive schedules, so it’s critical for me to consume enough protein and calories. This ensures I’m able to build and maintain muscle, and provide my body with the energy it needs to perform physically and mentally. Supplements I take include protein shakes, ready-to-drink beverages, bars, and yoghurts.

I like having a variety of protein format options to keep things interesting, especially when we consume such large quantities to replenish what's depleted in training.  


Q: Tell us more about how you prepare mentally for your sport?

Mental preparation is key to our performance, both in the build up to, and during a major event or tournament. On game day, mental preparation is just as important as the physical aspects, especially when you get into the knockout stages of a major event like the World Cup.

There is not a one-size-fits all approach, and personally, the most important thing is having absolute clarity in my role within the team and a given game plan. If I can maintain clarity throughout a match, even when fatigue sets in or pressure comes on, I know I will perform well. I’ve learnt over time that it’s about staying in the moment and executing in the now, rather than worrying about what’s just happened or might happen next. To do this, I have to focus under pressure, which means controlling emotions and being consistent in what I do without letting psychological factors distract me.

I also like to visualise the plays ahead of games, remember the strategy we have discussed, and recall the drills we have practiced. 

With team sports, every minute is different to the last.
It can be very mentally taxing so it's critical to fuel both the brain and body.


Q: Do you have any tips on how athletes can manage both their mental and physical health? Are there specific foods you turn to?

Good nutrition needs to be part of everyday life, until it becomes second nature. Eating well and training consistently is what boosts my overall wellbeing. It is not a tap you turn on and off just before an event; it is something that you learn and grow to enjoy in your day-to-day. I don’t follow strict diets. Rather, I enjoy good foods and I also know how to eat for optimum performance.

I also believe it’s important to understand what I am putting into my body and how it supports my goals. For example, certain proteins are fast-absorbing and good for post workout recovery, while other ingredients, such as phospholipids, can help fuel the brain over time. Lastly, maintaining habits and consistency is key to achieving sustainable results. 


Q: What are some of your considerations when selecting nutritional products to support your performance goals?

Flavour would have to be close to the top of the list! Choosing products I enjoy when topping up my training session with supplements is key, otherwise it can be difficult to maintain. I’m definitely a label reader, as I like understanding the fuel I put in my body – carbs, fats, and sugars. There is a right time for each, so it’s important to understand the details.

Fortified supplements with additional benefits such as mobility and muscle support or mental strength are always of interest, especially as the market continues to become more advanced (and less about just a thick protein shake!).

There are a lot of athlete studies on the benefits of supplements, so following the science and choosing leading brands that can support their claims with clinical studies is always a bonus. As athletes, we are always looking for what might give us that extra edge on game day.


Q: And to wrap up, what is one piece of advice you'd give to promising athletes?

Find balance. It doesn’t necessarily mean putting 50% effort into each activity – say, sports and work. It means being fully present and focused in the moment, and giving the task at hand everything you have. Balance is the ability to switch between responsibilities to maintain your overall wellbeing. 


Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the opinion of the author, and Fonterra is not responsible for any decisions taken in reliance on the same.


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