Dubai: Sometimes you bite off more than you can chew, but Tiffany Afflick is more than happy with what she has on her plate.
Tiffany is a sports nutritionist at The Edge Human Performance Lab in the UK, and she has begun to help the aspiring youngsters at the Swimming Centre of Excellence at GEMS Wellington Academy — Al Khail. And she is the first to admit she is elated at the standards being set at the Dubai facility.
With many of the swimmers looking to make a splash as a professional athlete, Tiffany has been charged with taking them to the next level, through nutritional support and guidance. While she insists athletes can always get — and eat — better, Tiffany is impressed at the level the youngsters at the Centre of Excellence are already at.
“I am quite happy with what I have seen,” she told Gulf News in an exclusive chat. “I am delighted. I always go into new projects with open eyes and gauge what the swimmers’ habits are — good and bad — so I know what to address. I am impressed at their nutritional education level, whether they get this education from home, school or their own sensible minds.
“What my job entails is to do some tweaking here and there, while still allowing them to enjoy their diets. We all know kids like pizza, chocolate and so on, but it is about encouraging them that if they are going to indulge, to do it on their day off and out of season, so you are in peak condition when training.”
Tiffany also explains how there is a balancing act and the required diets vary from swimmer to swimmer.
“Obviously, different athletes who are swimming different distances are going to need different food sources for their energy,” she says. “Short-distance swimmers will need quick-release foods, while longer distances require slow-release — and higher volumes. It surprises some, but fats are also a key source, healthy fats are a key energy source for the body.”
Based in England, Tiffany has yet to visit the facilities at the academy at GEMS, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, but she is in constant communication with her students. “I have worked with Hamilton Aquatics, and, as the academy works alongside them, some of those I worked with are at the Centre of Excellence,” Tiffany explains. “So I already have a relationship with a good number of the swimmers I am working with. However, all of the students I now have spoken to are a level above their peers.”
Aside from a sensible diet and the right guidance, these high standards are also down to the facilities available to aspiring athletes in the UAE city, according to Tiffany.
“Dubai is such a go-to venue for all kinds of athletes,” she says. “The UK swimmers I know all go for a training camp to the UAE every year. They are clearly going for a reason and that is the facilities, infrastructure and dedication to success in Dubai. And what I have seen at GEMS is simply world class. I have seen a lot of pools in my time and this is above the best.”
The Centre of Excellence boasts two 25m pools and a fitness suite, plus the students also have top-level training with Dejan Pejinovic, an Olympic swim coach.
Despite the lockdown, it has been a busy time over the past 12 months for Tiffany. She has delivered numerous nutrition workshops for swimming clubs in the UK while also working with Hamilton Aquatics in the UAE. In November, Tiffany joined The Edge Human Performance Lab, managed by expert nutritionist Dr Scott Robinson, where she is a nutritionist and Creative Chef. The Lab provides bespoke nutritional support and advanced testing for elite athletes around the globe and Tiffany is now taking that expertise to Dubai. She also found out that the pandemic really showed how much her swimmers are dedicated to their sport.
“There is a saying my friend tells me: ‘A happy swimmer is a fast swimmer’,” she says. “And now the kids are back at the pool you can see how much they appreciate it. You could see how much they missed it last year and they are all so thankful to have the access. Balancing studies and training can be tough, but at GEMS they have such a great network who wholeheartedly support them, solve their problems and help them improve in all aspects of life.”