Junk food is a big 'no' for track cyclist Jess Varnish, who had to put on 10kg of muscle to succeed in her sport
She has already tasted victory at London's Olympic velodrome, breaking the world record for the women's team sprint alongside team-mate (and Zest magazine columnist) Victoria Pendleton to take gold at the 2012 UCI Track Cycling World Cup in February.
That success has whetted Jess Varnish's appetite for medals at the forthcoming Olympics, so unsurprisingly it's now all about getting herself in the best shape ever. Here's how she does it.
How important is the right food to you?Being an athlete you have to be at your peak condition and obviously food is an incredibly important part of that. You can’t compete or train to the best of your ability without having good fuel. It isn’t such a big deal to everyone’s routine but it is to me.
I do love a nice burger but it’s always a gourmet one. I’d never have junk, fast food, I’d rather make it myself. I cook a lot - everyday, in fact. I love it. Last night I had a lovely Thai green curry. I love Jamie Oliver and always cook his recipes. I make cakes too, my best recipe is probably a chocolate brownie but I have to dish them out or I’d eat them all myself. Is it easy to become obsessive about what you’re eating?It could be, especially being a girl. I’ve had to gain weight and I was told if you don’t put on weight you’re not going to get anywhere. So I have had to put on 10 kilos of muscle, and for any girl to be told they’ve got to put on weight it’s not very nice. But I have been brought up well with food and I’ve always been told it’s about moderation. I’ve never said to myself 'you’re not going to eat this' - except now. From the World Championships up until the Olympics I’ve told myself 'you’re not going to eat a bar of chocolate'. I’ll have cake and chocolate brownies but not a whole bar. I think people get too obsessed with it. It’s calories in, calories out, that’s all. I’ve got a plan of what I can eat and when. I couldn’t just have dinner and go to bed, I’ll have a big meal and then a protein shake before I go to sleep. I tend to have eggs at breakfast or porridge and fruit and then at 11am, a protein shake. If I am training twice in one day I will have three protein shakes and then three meals and snacks. I do eat quite a lot and my friends are quite shocked. There are other girls on the team who have to diet but I’ve been quite lucky. How has training altered your social life?I moved to Manchester just after my A-Levels, so I was 18. It’s coming up to three years ago. I really like it. But I don’t really go out in Manchester. It sounds really sad, but I can’t. I go out to the cinema, cook, go for coffee. Even if I went out I’d feel really bad so I just don’t, I can’t do it. I normally go to bed at 10pm. But trust me, after the Olympics I’m going to go mental, I’m going to go for it! I really want to go to Ibiza; it might be hard to recover there though!
Does your body ever feel like a machine you are constantly conditioning?Yes, I wouldn’t look like this if I wasn’t doing what I do. I’ve had to put on 10 kilos of muscle. But it’s a very short time and I’m not going to be able to this for the whole of my life. It is 10 years of my life I can dedicate to being the fastest in the world so I want to do it.
Jess Varnish has teamed up with ocado.com to create three artworks for the online shopping company's vans to celebrate the Best of British.
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