Ireland rugby player Claire McLaughlin on what makes her fit and healthy
Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Belfast doctor and Irish rugby international Claire McLaughlin
1. Up and at it – what is your morning routine?
It differs day-to-day and week to week, depending on what shift I’m working, and whether I have training before work. I’ll normally get up between 5.30 and 6.30am, attempt to make my face look half-presentable, and make some breakfast. I’ll normally eat this while scrolling through Instagram and having a read of my Bible app, before hitting the road for work, with my travel cup of coffee in hand.
2. What might you eat in a typical working day for...
Breakfast? Breakfast is always either scrambled eggs (made with proper butter) with toast, or porridge with nuts and berries, and a big mug of tea.
Lunch? Almost always a salad, with chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, couscous, and sometimes avocado or pomegranate seeds. I’ll also have Greek yogurt with either pineapple or blueberries.
Evening meal? This differs, depending on whether I’ve trained or what training I’ve done that evening. A few of my go-to meals are soy chilli salmon with lots of green veg, chicken and noodle stir-fry, pesto chicken pasta with sundried tomatoes, mushrooms and feta cheese, or spaghetti Bolognese.
3. Is nutrition important to you?
Yes, good nutrition is important to me as it is key to fuelling me for all the training I do and is essential for recovery. I also see nutrition as being of huge importance for general health and as a potential medicine for a lot of illnesses – I’m a doctor and see the detrimental effect of poor nutrition day-in, day-out, in patients with a wide variety of medical problems.
4. Best meal ever?
That’s a tough one, because I love a lot of foods, but I think I have to go with Christmas dinner with all the trimmings.
5. Do you have a guilty pleasure?
It has to be chocolate, although there’s a long list of things I love – honeycomb ice cream, sticky toffee pudding, raspberry and white chocolate muffins, red velvet cake, caramel squares and peanut butter balls, to name a few.
6. Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?
A few years ago, I attempted to do a five-day detox. I filled my fridge with bags of spinach, asparagus, kale, minimal carbs, and even made my own hummus, but it literally lasted a day and a half. I had zero energy and couldn’t cope with watching my friend eating a huge burrito for lunch – so I failed miserably.
7. Do you take health supplements?
I take a multivitamin supplement each day.
8. How do you relax?
I love catching up with friends, going for good coffee, going out for food, long walks on the beach and playing the piano.
9. Teetotal or tipple?
Very occasional tipple.
10. Stairs of lift?
Almost always stairs, unless it’s more than five flights or if I’m carrying a lot of things.
11. Do you have a daily exercise regime?
Yes – my exercise regime was pretty intense when training with the Ireland women’s rugby squad. I do two-to-three gym sessions, two running fitness sessions, a skills session and a bike/spin session per week, so it’s quite varied and includes both weights training and cardio which are both essential to get me in the right condition for rugby and for life.
12. Best tip for everyday fitness?
A quote I fall back on, especially when I’m struggling to get up for a 5.30am gym session, is 'The only workout you’ll ever regret, is the one you didn’t do'.
13. On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are and how fit would you like to be?
I’m probably a seven at the minute – I feel a lot fitter than I’ve ever been, but I believe you can always improve and I would love to be able to say my fitness is 9/10.
14. Have you tried, or would you try, alternative therapy?
I enjoy my sports massages and ice baths which are a kind of alternative therapy.
15. Were school sports happy times or do you have a memory you would rather forget?
I have some great memories from my time playing sport at school and I think a lot of my personality traits and qualities, including my drive, and ability to work in a team, were shaped through experiences with friends in school sports teams.
16. Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?
I can’t think of any particular drastic changes I’ve made but I guess whenever I started taking rugby a bit more seriously my mindset changed through going to the gym, lifting weights, doing extra fitness sessions and wanting to eat healthier.
17. Best health/lifestyle advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?
Food is fuel, so eat what you need based on what energy you are going to need during the day. Balance is key, so don’t beat yourself up over treating yourself to a chocolate bar. Health isn’t just about eating 'clean' 100 per cent of the time, it’s about having a balance and treating yourself to keep yourself both mentally and physically in a good place.
18. Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness / attitude to life?
A lot of Crossfit athletes really inspire me in their drive and passion for overall fitness and life in general. In particular, I am a big fan of Andrea Ager, who is so real, so honest and is a real inspiration in terms of her attitude to training and her faith in God. I also follow some girls on Instagram, who would be described as 'fitness influencers' – my favourites would have to be Chessie King and TwiceTheHealth, whose love for health and life really inspires me.
19. What time do you normally get to bed and do you get enough sleep?
Normally I try to go around 11pm, but by the time I eventually wind down, it’s usually midnight before I’m asleep. My average sleep per night would be between six and seven hours – definitely not enough considering how hectic my days are with work and training.
20. Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?
Yes, I am an optimistic person and I know that this life is not the end. When it is my turn to go, there will be life after death which is better than this one.