Benita Lalor – Sports Dietitian


Kelly Cycle Coaching welcomes Benita Lalor

Firstly, welcome to Kelly Cycle Coaching as one of our Sports dietitians. We look forward to working with you and having you as a valuable resource to our athletes as we know that refuelling correctly will directly benefit their racing and training.
Thanks Helen & Bob, I am very happy to be on board!

Can we start by asking you how long you’ve been a dietitian? 
I have been a Dietitian for 12 years.  When I first started out I was in a variety of clinical and food regulation roles, but was always working towards specialising in sports nutrition.  Before making the move to Melbourne, I was working at the Australian Institute of Sport with a range of team and  individual sports. It was a great experience working with athletes in preparation for the Beijing Olympics.  I am now in my third year with the Essendon Football Club and have a full time role assisting with the physical preparation and recovery for all listed players.

As an Essendon Football club colleague of our Strength and Conditioning coach, Dee Jennings, we understand you are responsible for the Performance and Recovery of the Essendon AFL and VFL players.  Are there many similarities in the performance and recovery needs of football players and cyclists? 
Despite what you may think, the fundamentals for preparing effectively and recovering after training sessions/rides/matches are similar for both AFL football players and cyclists.  The demands of both sports require athletes to fuel adequately with high carbohydrate foods and fluids for both training and for races/game day.  Both sports also require particular attention to hydration preparation and fluid intake during sessions to minimise fatigue and maintain cognitive function. 

What would the key differences be between the needs of football players compared to cyclists?
I suppose the main difference is the amount of muscle mass that AFL players carry in comparison with cyclist, so the players dietary strategies can be tailored towards achieving this in the pre-season and maintaining throughout the season. Similar strategies however, would be employed with cyclists to achieve and maintain strength and power on the bike.    

Allergies and food intolerances to food are problems for several of our athletes.  What should our athletes do if they think they have are gluten intolerance?  Are you able to offer these athletes alternative options so they can adequately fuel themselves for training and racing?
It is always a good idea to go and see your GP and Dietitian to get some professional advice before eliminating any foods from your training diet.  Initially, the test for coeliac disease is a simple blood test.  Once a diagnosis has been made an individualised plan can be devised to ensure athletes with gluten intolerances, are well fuelled, receiving all the key nutrient to perform at their peak and optimise immune function. 

The range of gluten free products are growing and there are some great options available out there (that actually taste ok).  There is also a range of gluten free sports foods and supplements available for athletes (carbohydrate gels, bars etc) which can also assist in meeting performance nutrition  goals on the bike.

Some of our athletes have heard about the ‘30min window’ relating to recovery after a hard training session or race?  What does this mean?  What should a cyclist try to eat after they finish a long ride or race?
A lot of preparation usually goes into what athletes do before and during a ride/race, but often what they eat and drink after the session is completely overlooked.  Recovery should be seen as the first step to preparation for the next ride/race and becomes particularly important when athletes have to back up on consecutive days.  

Generally, the immediate recovery goals after a ride are to fuel glycogen stores with carbohydrate foods and fluids.  Having some lean protein is also important  to help with muscle repair and regeneration after a long ride. These same recovery principles are also essential to maximise the benefits of a strength training program. 

The sooner these key nutrients are delivered the better, so it is always good to have some food, fluids or even supplements to consume immediately after each session. Talk to your Sports Dietitian to work out the best option for you.

Some of our more senior athletes have trouble replenishing the large quantity of calories they are burning each day.  For some, it is evident as they struggle to hold weight but more importantly, you can see that they are losing power. What should these athletes do to help consume enough calories?   Can you advise cyclists on how to maintain the right body weight for road cycling?
It’s hard to give general advice as every athletes nutrition requirements are different, depending on their age, sex, how much training they are doing and what their overall training goals are.  However in order to meet nutrition requirements when spending large amounts of time on the bike it becomes very important to be planned and organised with the foods and fluids they are consuming before/during and after training.  It is often the case that relying on three meals each day when undertaking a heavy training schedule will not adequately meet energy requirements    With the amount of energy required to meet heavy training schedule food required, it can be hard to rely on three meals a day.

Paying particular attention to recovery between heavy training sessions requires a high total carbohydrate and protein intake.  As mentioned earlier, it also requires some planning to ensure the strategic timing of meals, mid meal snacks or supplements to enhance muscle glycogen replenishment and muscle repair. 

During long training rides (>3hrs) is it important to have an electrolyte drink as well as water?  Why is this so?
Performing at your peak during training and racing requires paying attention to both carbohydrate and fluid intake.  Dehydration can impair your performance in a number of ways – it can affect how hard you feel like you are working, decision making and your concentration levels.  Choosing a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink is a great choice – providing both carbohydrate and fluid. 

How do our athletes contact you if they need dietary advice?  Should they email/ring to make an appointment?  And whereabouts is your office?
I can be contacted on my mobile 0410477787 or via email to make an appointment.  I am consulting out of an office in Southbank.

Mental Edge Consulting
Suite G 07
175 Sturt Street Southbank

For further information about Benita, please refer to the Health Professional, Dietitian page of this website.