What Elite Athletes Eat with Nutrition-Conscious Olympic Rower Aisyah – EP009

 In Podcast

One might assume elite athletes and Olympians to be among the healthiest people in the world.

One might be wrong.




Today’s guest can attest to the fact that while the best of the best in the sports world are incredibly fit, you might be surprised to find out what they are eating! The terms ‘health’ and ‘fitness’ are not synonyms, and this Olympian’s experience traveling and training on different continents has taught her that even the elite make poor choices when it comes to nutrition.

 28-year-old Saiyidah Aisyah is the first rower from Singapore to qualify for the Olympic Games. She worked as a personal trainer, PE teacher and coach before moving to Sydney to pursue her rowing goals in 2013. She won Singapore’s first individual Gold in rowing at the 23rd SEA Games in Myanmar before qualifying for the Rio Olympics with a win at the 2016 Asia and Oceania Olympic qualification regatta. She is also the first rower to receive the SpexScholarship offered by the Singapore Sports Institute.

Today she speaks with Ali about the sports culture among women in Singapore, how health and fitness are promoted in her home country, and her intent to be a role model for girls there. Listen and learn her take on the relationship between health and fitness and how her diet has changed since she moved to Sydney and began working with a nutritionist.

Topics Covered

[0:35] How Aisyah got involved in athletics

  • Grew up in competitive household w/ four brothers
[1:22] The ‘sport culture’ among women in Singapore

  • Boys encouraged to play sports, not a priority for girls
  • Small group of women pursue athletics
  • General belief of ‘no future in sports’ among men and women
[2:41] The benefits Aisyah has enjoyed from being an elite athlete

  • Confidence
  • Sense of independence
  • Facility to take care of body
[3:15] The understanding of health and fitness among the general population in Singapore

  • Growing health/fitness culture, but big gap compared to Australia
  • Use work, family, expense as excuses to avoid
[4:09] How health and fitness are promoted in Singapore

  • Physical activity encouraged through schools (PE courses)
  • Health Promotion Board promotes smaller portions (rather than truly healthy diet)
  • Most affordable food is oily and unhealthy
[5:43] How Aisyah’s diet has changed

  • Teammates in Singapore consumed fast food breakfast after hard training session
  • Training partners in Australia eat homemade oats, fruit/yogurt
[7:26] Aisyah’s experience with a nutritionist

  • Has adapted diet through different stages of Aisyah’s career
  • Current priority on high protein and calcium intake
  • Personalizes recommendations (i.e.: low iron levels and bone density)
  • Suggests food that reduces inflammation while recovering from injury
[10:16] Why a high level of fitness doesn’t necessarily mean the individual is healthy

  • Competing as lightweight meant maintaining a weight of 59kg
  • Aisyah’s natural weight is 63kg
  • Led to bone density issues, missing periods, etc.
[13:06] How to maintain a healthy diet when traveling

  • Simple daily routine (fruits and vegetables, grilled/baked chicken)
  • Prepare meals yourself
[15:31] Aisyah’s intention to give back to young women of Singapore

  • Encourage girls who are interested in sports
  • Show that you can be an elite athlete and have a career/family
  • Demonstrate success in a well-rounded life
[16:48] Aisyah’s future

  • Recover from shoulder injury
  • Asian Games next year
  • Tokyo Olympics in 2020
  • Acquire partner to compete with (double scull)

Learn More About Aisyah





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