Elite rower Dr Philip Doyle on consuming more than 6,000 calories a day

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Philip Doyle from Banbridge, elite, medal-winning rower and doctor at Belfast City Hospital

Rower and doctor Philip Doyle
Gail Bell

1 Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

I have two routines: my 'day' routine and my 'night' routine, as I have started work full-time as a doctor while training for Olympic qualification. I wake up and do an indoor session at my flat on the bike or rowing machine, then I grab a quick breakfast and go to work.

2 What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

Breakfast is usually toast, yoghurt and fruit. I try to eat a high protein yoghurt to help repair my muscles after training and the toast is for carbohydrates.

Lunch? After breakfast, my meals are taken before and after training, but will contain a good protein and carbohydrate source, along with some form of vegetable.

Dinner? Again, it depends on training, but there will be protein and carbohydrate in each meal.

3 Is nutrition important to you?

It is very important, as I have to keep my weight from dropping. We train multiple times a day so recovery plays a big role. Weights sessions need high protein replacement and endurance sessions need high carbohydrate replacement.

4 Best meal ever?

My mother cooks a prawn and bacon pasta dish with creme fraiche and fresh veg. It is up there with the best.

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure?


6 Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?

I have a 'see food, eat food' diet to maintain my weight. We have to consume 6,000-plus calories a day and that can be challenge sometimes.

7 Do you take health supplements?

I use SIS (Science in Sport) rego and electrolytes for training. The rego is a high carbohydrate shake that I mix with milk after a session.

8 How do you relax?

I relax with a good film or a walk with my dog. I also love to get away for the day with my girlfriend, Rachael, and spend some quality time with her because she puts up with all my training commitments.


9 Teetotal or tipple?

With my training, I don't like to drink too often, but, for special occasions, I enjoy the odd glass of red or a nice Irish gin.

10 Stairs or lift?

Stairs every time, but I work on the top floor of the hospital tower block which has over 30 flights, so I do take the lift sometimes...


11 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

Yes, but it's just training to me and changes in cycles throughout the year. Winter is long-distance endurance, while summer is more intense speed work for racing. During winter, I’m on the static machines in the dark mornings and evenings, but if I can get out during the day, in sunlight, it is always in the boat.

12 Best tip for everyday fitness?

Get it done early in the day. Things come up and it gets easier not to do, as the day progresses. Also, make sure you get sports injuries checked out, no matter how minor. I learned that during my time on the Elite Athlete Programme at Queen's University.

13 On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are and how fit would you like to be?

At the minute, I have a rib injury so I would say a six, but during race season I want to be a nine. I am training for the national trials and, with my work, I sometimes can’t avoid missing a session. I definitely have room to get fitter coming into racing season.

14 Have you tried, or would you try, alternative therapy?

I haven't tried any yet. I have recently qualified as a doctor and we are programmed to trust the medicine first before the alternative therapy.

15 Were school sports happy times or do you have a memory you would rather forget?

They were great times for me. I was part of a very successful Banbridge Academy hockey team. We won the Irish and Ulster schools and I was fortunate to play for Ulster and Ireland under age teams multiple times.

16 Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle? I haven't had one yet and I hope it's a few years before I do.

17 Best health/lifestyle advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?

You can't expect to get something for nothing, so be prepared to give as much as you can. This applies for elite sport, but a mild version would definitely be useful for everyone getting into fitness.

18 Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness / attitude to life?

I don't have one particular person who inspires me. I find inspiration in the small victories in life, from elite athletes overcoming the odds to snatch victory, to people I doing their first ever triathlon, or my father, who fought back from being in the hospice with pancreatic cancer to cycle 24 miles with me on a local towpath. My father was a huge mentor for me and his influence and attitude still guides me.

19 What time do you normally get to bed and do you get enough sleep?

I have to play it by ear with work shifts. Six hours is usually my minimum, but I have had to deal with less over the last few months.

20 Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?

I feel I have a very strange attitude towards mortality, but I am very accepting of it. I have lost a parent, grandparents and friends and I was exposed to death regularly on my medical elective in Malawi. I appreciate the preciousness of life and how vulnerable we are, especially in society today. I try to live my life to the full and be happy with each of my decisions, so that that I can be at peace with my own mortality.

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