Series06 Mar 2017

My greatest challenge – Brianna Rollins


Brianna Rollins in the 100m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 (© AFP / Getty Images)

Olympic 100m hurdles champion Brianna Rollins is a master of her craft. However, as the 25-year-old US athlete admits, she faces a constant battle to keep her nutritional intake on track to allow her to achieve her goals.

Keeping the cravings at bay

Diet would be one of my greatest challenges as an elite track and field professional. I've always loved food. When I was younger, pizza was one of my favourite things to eat along with a whole bunch of sweets, from cookies, doughnuts, cupcakes. You name it, I would probably eat it!

Growing up with a mum that did not practice healthy eating with us, we would eat fast food, chips and candy pretty much every day if no one cooked.

I think I was always vaguely aware my nutritional intake wasn’t the best. Then I went from being a 114lb (52kg) freshman in college thinking I could never gain weight to a 135lb (61kg) sophomore. Gaining about 20lb in college woke me up to the fact I needed to improve my diet.

In some respects, it benefited me because I became a lot stronger and not so injury prone. But today I am more than aware that in order for me to achieve the things that I want to achieve, then diet is critical.

My coach, Lawrence Johnson, offered regular reminders about the importance of my diet and that prompted me to get professional help from a nutritionist. I have since learned much more about different foods and what helps fuel my body to allow me to perform better. This has also been a huge reminder that I never want to miss out on the podium because of something I have control over such as my diet.

To this day I still love a good burger and fries and a cupcake or something sweet and I still indulge from time to time, but I try to make sure that when I do, it is straight after a track meet and at least two days before I have another race.

The day of a competition I rarely get to eat a full day of meals, so it’s the perfect time to cheat, especially after burning so many calories running that day. Then during the non-competition/off season I try to limit the indulgent eating to once a week.

I haven't quite mastered my diet yet and it is still a challenge for me, but as I’m getting older I realise how important nutrition is. My body isn’t the same as when I was 20, so if I want to be successful I can’t continue to eat like I was 20. I am getting a grasp on this diet thing, and I know and understand it will be well worth the sacrifice further down the line.

Steve Landells for the IAAF