Keeping Cork Healthy: Week 3 - Minding your mental health

25th April 2020

The Mardyke Arena UCC have teamed up with The Echo for our new campaign ‘Keeping Cork Healthy’ series to give the Cork community weekly tips on how they can stay fit and healthy during this lock down period.

In this week’s edition, nutrition tips for sports people plus advice on how to look after your mental wellbeing, a new home workout video, a tasty recipe from Rory O’Connell and we hear from two-time Olympian & world champion rower, Sanita Puspure. 

Minding your mental health

We are all doing our best to cope during this prolonged period of uncertainty, and while the priority continues to be managing the spread of Covid-19, we also need to mind our mental health.

Consultant Psychiatrist in UCC, Dr Michele Hill, gives us some tips to help:

LIMIT exposure to news and social media if it is causing anxiety: 1-2 short updates per day from factual resources is plenty. Now is the time for that boxset you hadn’t got to

Re-establish CONNECTIONS. Social connection is a great buffer against stress. It is difficult to do at this time, but try to stay in touch with people who lift your spirits or make you laugh via the phone, skype, facetime, whatsapp, etc.

Create BOUNDARIES and ROUTINES. Try to find a space to work that is not where you eat or hangout with family. If that is not possible, consider wearing different clothes as you work, and going for a short walk before resuming family life

Prioritise SLEEP, try to do some EXERCISE, EAT reasonably healthily and avoid excessive alcohol. These are all scientifically proven to help your mental health.

If you have a mental health condition, keep taking your medication (if you are on any), and continue online or phone care that is offered to you. It is also useful to write a list of services that may be able to help. See the HSE website.

Home Workout


Nutrition for the athlete

This is so important for athletes as poor nutrition is more than likely going to lead to possible malnutrition, poor recovery, slower adaptations and a higher chance of getting injured, says nutritional consultant, Mary Carmody.

Eat regular wholesome meals using locally sourced, nutrient dense, whole foods including brightly colored fruit and vegetables (seasonable where possible) and chew up your foods slowly and thoroughly to aid digestion.

Eat simple healthy snacks between main meals, preferably every 2.5/3 hours, stay energised and properly fuelled. Ideas could be smoothies, soups, nuts/seeds, nut butters, hummus, etc.

Include good quality protein at all meals and snacks to aid recovery from training. Recommendations are circa 1.5-2g’s protein per kg of body weight per day, depending on level of training. Sources include chicken, turkey, ham, lamb, beef, fish, cheese, eggs, lentils, beans, etc.

Reduce intake of refined sugar, alcohol and caffeine, and stay hydrated by drinking water. This, along with a balanced diet, will normally keep electrolytes (essential minerals found in the blood and sweat and reduced during running) balanced.

Eat more Omega 3’s (nuts, seeds, avocados, oily fish) and less Omega 6’s (processed oils including sunflower and processed foods) which are related to inflammation and impaired energy metabolism. The ratio of Omega 6’s to Omega 3’s can be high in western society so a recommended ratio is 4:1 for Omega 6’s to Omega 3’s. You could also look at taking a fish oil if you don’t eat fish or nuts/seeds.

Check your vitamin D levels, spend some time in the sun where possible or take a D3 liquid supplement, as being deficient in Vitamin D may put the athlete at an increased risk for stress fractures, respiratory infections and muscle injuries.

Magnesium is very important to athletes for energetic metabolism and muscles contractions and relaxation and can be deficient in a modern diet. Include lots of green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, wholegrains, nuts and veg in the diet.

Female athletes could look at their iron levels too to ensure they are sufficient and good food sources are spinach, red meat, seeds, wholegrains, lentils etc.

Regular exercise can improve cognitive and immune function, depression, bones density, sleep and decrease body fat. However, be careful of over-training syndrome where the body fails to adapt to exercise. You can do this by keeping your body adequately nourished and rested.

Remember, follow the 80:20 rule as you must have some off times too to enjoy a few treats!