Time is of the essence in the life of a GAA player. Trying to balance collective and individual training sessions, with a full-time job, university course, never mind a personal life. Eating well can often be compromised.
A GPA/GAA survey carried out last month found that players can spend up to 31 hours per week on their senior inter-county commitments, with almost half of those surveyed not getting the eight to 10 hours sleep recommended for athletes.
One thing county teams can, and are, controlling is how their players recover at meal times.
Kildare native David Carey founded Fitness Food HQ in 2016, and his company pride themselves on preparing fresh, completely natural ready-to-eat meals and delivering them nationwide daily.
The key question they ask of consumers is – how much do you value your time? Enough to pay roughly €35 weekly for one meal a day? Or a lot more depending on the number of meals. This year’s All-Ireland hurling champions seemed to see the value.
“I think the main selling point for us is by the time people spend 10 or 11 hours a week – thinking of what they’re going to get, prepping for it, shopping for it, cooking it, cleaning up after themselves . . . we’d say to them, what do you value your time as?” says Carey, whose company operates from a custom-built 14,000sq ft production kitchen, manufacturing facility and distribution centre in Co Kildare.
“GAA players are full-time athletes but they have full-time jobs as well. So they are in situation whereby they are trying to eat and train like a professional athlete, but still work a day job where they may be 9am to 5pm. So their time is limited and that seems to be the market that is advancing the most at the moment.
“We have catered for the Limerick hurlers this year [who won the All-Ireland] , and the Kildare senior hurlers and footballers, and there are a lot of counties who we’ve been in contact with their S&C coaches. So we hope to be working with a lot more teams going forward.
“Some teams we would provide food for after training. Other teams we would provide a set amount of meals to the players over the week. It’s designed that we work hand-in-hand with the nutritionist and S&C coach and the backroom teams, to design meals to fit within the guidelines of what the player should consume within the day. They’re getting a set amount of calories, protein, and carbs and fats that they need after training or after work or throughout the week.”
Having your meals prepared specifically to your nutritional needs, cooked and delivered to you sounds almost too good to be true – surely something’s got to give?
Cooked supermarket meals and other ready-made options have long been associated with different preservation methods to extend shelf life. While anything you don’t cook in your own kitchen these days can be stuffed full of artificial colourings and flavourings.
“Everything we do is cooked fresh and completely natural. So no preservatives, no artificial flavours, no artificial colours, nothing that would be deemed in any way artificial. We don’t use any preservation methods that would extend shelf life, we don’t use any form of gas which would extend shelf life – it’s all fresh.
“The definition of fresh could be 2-4 days, on average the food would have a three-day shelf life, and you can freeze anything you don’t consume in that period of time. And customers can receive their meals in one delivery per week, or split it into two deliveries.
“People can specify with us, exactly to the gram, what they want. It could be somebody looking to bulk up, or for fat loss, somebody could sign up to us for 12 or 16 weeks and they could be working with a personal trainer and they’ve been told you need a certain amount of calories a day.
“You need X-amount of proteins, carbs and fats, and they’ll come to us with a meal plan or a solution and they’ll say I need this cooked. I need to consume four meals a day, seven days a week and I need to use your service. So we can give you exactly what you need and exactly what you want and this will essentially all be happening on that day.
“I think more and more people are on the health and fitness bandwagon, parents and people in general are becoming more aware of what they’re putting in their bodies. With the way the economy is going people are earning more but working more and their time is limited, so they make poor food choices because they have that option open to them. They are knowledge rich but time poor.
“So we give athletes that guarantee that if you’re training you’re going to get the results.”