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Fifteen Fit & Foodie with Sophie MacKenzie

I am an Olympian, a former back to back rowing world champion, yoga teacher, holistic nutritionist...but most importantly I am Sophie MacKenzie. My time as an elite athlete taught me a lot about myself and then I learnt even more about myself when I retired from rowing and completed my holistic nutrition qualification. By combining my nutritional knowledge and high performance sport experience, I knew I wanted to help younger versions of myself have the ability to make more informed decisions around fuelling their bodies. I created “When She Fuels”. These days if you see me out exercising it is most likely I will be running, sometime with our dog Eddie in tow.

1. What is your favourite strength exercise for rowing and why?

Hip thrusts because it was one I was actually good at and didn’t get frustrated like I did/do with squats and cleans. Also bench press cause I liked feeling strong and once I learnt the technique properly I saw big improvements!

2. Who is your biggest inspiration? (Doesn’t have to be an athlete)

This is a hard one and changes all the time but my friends are pretty inspiring. I also love a good biography which I find really inspiring and insightful.

3. Your proudest moment (life or sporting)?

In 2014 when I won gold at the under 23 world champs with Zoe McBride and then 6-weeks later won Gold at World Champs with Julia Edwards - that was a pretty surreal year for me.

4. What was one of your key nutrition strategies for the 2016 Olympics?

To know what I was eating. I would often eat the Radix freeze-dried meals instead of going to the food hall because I knew how much energy was in them and how much they weighed as I needed to weigh in at a certain weight 2-hours before each race.

5. Favourite food/meal after a big training mission?

Eggs on toast with a small cacao banana or berry protein smoothie.

6. What is your current go-to breakfast?

Porridge with berries, cinnamon, Nuzest vanilla Protein powder topped with cream and peanut butter or weekends is @megsandsoph banana pancakes with homemade choccy sauce.

7. What is your favourite quote that’s resonated with you for life?

I’m a sucker for a good quote but a simple one that has always stuck with me is “Never, never, never, give up.” My mum got me a paper weight with this on it once when we were sitting at a garden cafe and it’s been in my room ever since high school, I love it.

8. What is something you have learnt about nutrition that had the biggest enhancement for you with your rowing performance OR outside of rowing?

To fuel your body and mind. Being super strict on your nutrition is all encompassing and not fun at all which is what I was like from 2012-2016. I then a returned to rowing after 18-months off and had changed my mindset to have a much more balanced approach to nutrition and this was so much better for my mental health and energy levels! It also made going out for brunch and dinners a lot more fun.

9. Knowing what you know now, what is your key message for young female rowers who might be reading this?

To fuel your body to get the best out of yourself. If you’re not sure you’re eating enough then speak to a nutritionist and get qualified assistance.

10. What was your biggest setback in rowing and how did you overcome this?

I got injured multiple times on returning to rowing in 2018 after my time off and my body didn’t handle the amount of training well. I did a lot of rehab and physio over the year or so. It was a really tough time and I actually got sent home from Europe due to a lingering knee injury which wouldn’t allow me to row let alone train properly. So I came home and rested, did heaps of rehab, including a lot of Pilates and reformer work. I took the chance during this time to finish my nutrition studies and do Pilates teacher training while I slowly built my training back up. Patience isn’t my strong point but it was very crucial over this time, however frustrating and upsetting it became.

11. If you didn’t pursue rowing, what do you think you would have pursued instead?

I was actually getting my private pilots license after high school on a chance scholarship and I loved it. However, I think I would have pursued personal training from the start or travelled the world and worked where I could… honestly I’m not sure cause I was always so set on rowing and making that dream come true.

12. Your favourite meal choice at your favourite local?

Paddock in Cambridge one of their burgers or the avocado bagel.

13. What’s been your favourite sporting event of all time and why?

Olympics - because it is such an achievement to get there, to be able to wear the silver fern along with ALL the other athletes from many sports. Watching all the events that week was a huge highlight especially cheering on fellow kiwi’s in events you’d never usually be able to cause as an athlete your usually only all in on your own sport - it was pretty humbling to watch the rest of the NZ Team.

14. When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue rowing at the next level?

I kind of fell into loving rowing. I followed my sister and friends which lead me to sign up for rowing then I did well my first season and did even better the second season that I just stuck at it and decided at some point I wanted to represent NZ on the world stage.

15. If you could go back in time, what would be one thing you would tell your teenage self, knowing what you know now?

Learn how to fuel your body properly. You don’t need to be the smallest size/weight year-round. Trust your body.


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