Late last year, I hopped in my MINI and travelled around 200 miles to visit Pipers Farm. The Farm sits high on top of some impressive rolling hills in Devon meaning there's no hiding places if the weather turns a bit nasty. Thankfully it was a crisp, blue skies and sunshine kinda day which made for some really fab views in November.
I arrived at Pipers Farm mid morning and was greeted by Peter and Henri Piper (the founders), Fly (the working sheepdog and a bit of a boss) and Abby (brand manager). We had a quick chat, cup off coffee to warm up and discussed the day ahead. I'm really interested in nutrition and food as it's very much an extension of our daily lives as athletes. I truly believe you are what you eat; you eat sh*t, you'll most likely feel sh*t too. I eat well and am pretty knowledgeable but was really keen to know more about the stuff that goes on at Pipers Farm and why it goes on. This was why I was here today.
I was instantly hit with the knowledge and passion Henri and Peter Piper had surrounding sustainable farming. They explained the Pipers Farm way - 'meat the natural way'. All Pipers Farm want to do is produce meat sustainably, in harmony with nature and to then share this knowledge. The welfare of the animals is also deep rooted in their beliefs at Pipers Farm and all animals are grown slowly, free range and in small groups/herds. They mature at their own natural pace and develop a good, natural immune system as a result. There are also no antibiotics in sight at Pipers Farm either - in the last 5 years, they've only had to use antibiotics three times to treat a poorly animal.
We saw a whole range of animals during the day including grass fed Lambs, free range Chicken and Turkeys and Saddleback Pigs. First stop, however, was the grass fed Red Ruby cows who actually origin from the South West area. Like the rest of the animals at the farm, the cattle are free to roam and follow their natural instincts like eating/foraging for food. Their diet is totally natural too. Up close they are a really beautiful and powerful species.
After visiting a few different animals, it was time for a spot of lunch made exclusively from ingredients home grown from the farm. It was a real treat. Pictures do it more justice than words - trust me it was just as delicious as it looks.
Like I mentioned earlier in the blog (and in various other blog posts), I really do believe you are what you eat - eat sh*t, feel sh*t. That was one of the main drivers behind teaming up with Pipers Farm - I want to put the best food inside me in order to get the best out of myself and my training. Theres no point training hard and not complementing it will a varied, healthy, carbohydrate and protein rich diet.
Because the meat from Pipers is all 100%, totally natural, it means I really know what I'm putting in my body. No added water, no added preservatives, no unnecessary antibiotics means the nutrition and nutrient content I gain from each product is so far above other meat products bought elsewhere. Meat is one of those foods when eaten in moderation and in balance, it's a winner. And on top of that, when the animals from which the meat has come have themselves eaten only a natural diet, unsullied by chemicals, then I'm very happy that it’s a healthy choice and the best for me.
Diet of an athlete is a complex subject. Firstly it's not a one size fits all process. It depends on the sport you do, the intensity of training, the length of training, the type of training, what phase of training the athlete is in, the injury history of the athlete.... I could go on and on! Even in the GB Women's Hockeys squad there is huge variety in diets and needs of athletes and it's the job of us, as athletes, and our nutritionist to try and work out what works best.
My philosophy with food is as follows...
1) Is it a training day or rest day? Training = fuel up on carbs/protein. Rest = fuel up on higher protein levels than carbs.
2) Is it a high intensity training day or low intensity training day? Fuel more/less accordingly
3) Eat regularly, snack 2 x a day on nuts, oatcakes, yoghurt, meat pieces, hummus etc
4) Drink, drink and more drink (not alcohol). I love drinking squash rather than water and will have 1 coffee a day too
5) Everything else, including all the yummy things, in moderation - crisps, chocolate, pizza, chips, chicken nuggets
The biggest faux par as an athlete is to under fuel in terms of carbohydrates and then not to refuel adequately. Not only are our training sessions physically demanding but very mentally demanding. If you're under fuelled your mind will go and you won't be able to make correct decisions under fatigue. Therefore always fuel appropriately!
Pipers Farm help allow me to make sure Im fuelling myself appropriate. The meats are of the highest quality and there is a huge variety meaning I can experiment a little in the kitchen and keep eating fun and interesting. My favourite product at the moment is the Aromatic Beef Stir Fry. Essentially yummy, marinated Red Ruby beef pieces than I'll cook and either eat as a snack with a dip or pop in a stir fry.
P.s this is my second blog about Pipers Farm. The other one, named 'Me, My Nutrition and I' can be found by clicking here.