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Invigorate Nutrition

Dr Kirsty Fairbairn is the Senior Consultant and Director of Invigorate Nutrition. Dr Fairbairn is the most qualified & one of the most experienced Sports Dietitians in private practice in New Zealand. She is the first New Zealander to achieve Advanced Sports Dietitian accreditation with Sports Dietitians Australia, the world leading Sports Dietitians’ professional body. She has special expertise in balancing nutrition with exercise to maximise health and performance. She holds a PhD (Doctorate) degree investigating muscle fat metabolism, a Master of Science degree (awarded with Distinction), a Postgraduate Diploma in Dietetics degree (awarded with Distinction) and a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Human Nutrition.

During her PhD studies in Sydney, Kirsty was on the Executive Board, and subsequently the President, of Sports Dietitians Australia – one of the most progressive Sports Nutrition professional bodies in the world. While she has extensive experience with elite and high performance athletes, her clear understanding of the role that both nutrition and exercise play in health means that she can translate that advice to junior and masters’ athletes and recreational exercisers; as well as anyone wanting to lose weight or enjoy better health.

Kirsty grew up in Southland and Otago, and is typical of the many innovative, talented and successful New Zealanders who have gained extensive world-class experience overseas, and chosen to return home to raise their families.

For more information about Kirsty’s experience and expertise, explore the tabs below:

Sports Nutrition ExperienceTestimonials & Client InsightsResearch ExperienceScientific Publications

Joseph Schooling
Photo: Dr Kirsty Fairbairn

Joseph Schooling - Gold Medallist 100m Butterfly, Rio 2016 Olympics

How does eating well help your performance, and life?

I feel a lot more energized when I eat healthy constantly. In class, I feel more focused and I digest information faster. In the pool, I can have multiple solid practices in a row and I recover quicker. My goal is to be Olympic and World Champion so I need my body to perform at its best and it all starts by what I put into it. On top of that, eating healthy will help down the road after swimming. 

What makes Kirsty an effective Sports Dietitian?

Kirsty has phenomenal people and nutrition skills. She's the best nutritionist I've ever met and she's very knowledgeable. She helps me map out my diet, supplements, and also gives me tips of when to eat certain foods throughout the season. For example, Kirsty has helped me gain a ton of strength. In a year, I've stayed at about the same weight, but my strength has gone up by 25-30%! Through a strategic diet, she has prepared me well for this upcoming Olympic Games. 

What changes to your diet did you really appreciate or enjoy making? 

I cut out fast food and late night snacking. Snacking is good but it depends on what you snack on. If I have morning practice the next day, Kirsty gives me certain meals I can eat before I go to bed so that it holds me down better for practice the following morning. Most nutritionists believe eating before going to bed is a bad thing but Kirsty's vast experience working alongside world class athletes gives her the ability to distinguish what certain individuals need in their daily diet. 

How your nutrition habits have changed as a result of the nutrition coaching that you have received from Kirsty? Do you make different choices now?

Before this Olympic year, I didn't care about my diet. I used to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to. Kirsty demonstrated the importance of eating healthy and the results have been amazing! I cook at home much more than I normally did and I've leaned up. I check the nutritional facts on foods I buy, and I'm more aware of what I put into my body. She stressed on eating healthy and I can finally see why she did so. Thank you Kirsty!

As you have learned to eat better for your sport, has this rubbed off on team-mates, friends and family?

It definitely has rubbed off onto my family and friends. Whenever my team mates come over and cook, they've learnt to eat more vegetables and fruits and saw the same good results I have. It's definitely no magic but when you have a nutritionist like Kirsty helping monitoring your food intake, the results happen quicker and more effectively. I would definitely recommend Kirsty to anyone that needs or wants to lead a healthier life.

Ben Smith

Ben Smith - Highlanders and All Blacks fullback

How does eating well help you with your performances, and your life generally?

I want energy in everything I do in life, not just sport. Eating the right food is a big part of getting that energy. Playing rugby means that I need to perform at my best all week (at training and in games); to do that I need to eat the right diet. I know that I can get gains through what I eat to get the performance I need in the weekend.

What motivates you to eat well?

I know I need to be at a certain weight to play well, so my diet is a big part of achieving that weight. When I do that, I feel confident going into the game. If I feel too heavy I’ll feel more sluggish, so that also motivates me to make the right dietary choices and be at an effective weight for good rugby.

My family and daughter are a huge motivator also.  Both my wife and I feel that it is really important to set the right example to our daughter and teach her how to eat well, so she has the right sort of energy to do whatever she wants to do in life.  Mum and Dad set a good example to me, and I want to repeat that for my family.

I have always been careful about avoiding high fat foods, and more recently I’ve also been wary of high sugar foods; making sure that I choose my carbohydrate sources carefully.

What did you like about working with Kirsty?

I worked with Kirsty from the early stages of my professional rugby career. I feel that Kirsty helped me reach my weight gain goals; which at the early stage of my rugby career was about achieving the weight that coaches and trainers wanted me at. We had to make sure that I gained the right sort of weight (muscle, not fat). Part of my dietary approach was learning how I could use nutrition to ensure that I would reach certain strength and weight goals in the gym as well as my rugby performance goals, so that I could compete with and against players who were a bit bigger than I was. Kirsty worked alongside me, giving me regular feedback, and had the approach to work as a team together to benefit me and my rugby career.

What qualities does Kirsty bring that makes her an effective Sports Dietitian?              

The way that Kirsty went about her support was really professional, and she used her expertise from working with other athletes.  I really benefited from access to that experience. Kirsty was always easy to approach, and if I felt anything wasn’t working or needed tweaking, she would give good input and feedback.

I would absolutely recommend Kirsty to any other athlete to progress their sporting careers.

What changes to your diet did you really appreciate or enjoy making?

I had to adapt how regularly I was putting fuel into my body. As a student, I wasn’t eating as regularly as I should have been to get the muscle mass and weight on. Once we sat down and talked about what I needed, we came up with a plan on how to eat more food, what food, and where to fit it in during the day or during the week so that I could gain some muscle mass. Back then I weighed around 80kg, and was told that I needed to be up around 90kg to compete with other players in my position and to be competitive at the professional level. Now I sit at 94kg to play, ten years later, in some great winning teams :-).

How have your general life habits changed as a result of the nutrition coaching that you have received from me – outside of sport. Have you improved your shopping & cooking skills?

The knowledge I have gained from Kirsty (and other Highlanders and All Blacks Nutritionists) has meant that I can make better decisions at each eating occasion. I have learnt how to prepare my meals better, my cooking skills have definitely improved. We use My Food Bag at home, which is great.  I know what food I enjoy, and I can mix that in with what tastes good and works well for me and my body to be able to train, play and keep energy up for all my other non-playing commitments.  This means that I have high levels of interest in getting my meals right!

Do you look at food differently now? Do you think more about what you eat? 

I have learnt over the years that I need a good balance of foods early in the week; I need less carbohydrates early compared to later in the week (as I prepare to play). I will use salads to fill out my meals early in the week. Later in the week I need more carbohydrates in my meal to play a good game for the full 80 mins.  The right diet leading into a game ensures that I last the full game without cramping or too much fatigue.

How do you use nutrition to help you with your recovery after games?

I do need the right food (and some supplements) on board to help me recover from the game and bounce back and be ready to train hard early in the week. I add fish oils to my diet early in the week to help with game recovery. We eat as soon as possible after the game, for me so that I don’t lose too much weight in the days following, and it helps my body feel better the next few days’ post-game. I eat plenty of fruit and veg, and add nuts and seeds and fish to my weekly diet to keep me feeling good. As a rule, I snack in the changing rooms post-game and then follow up with a healthy meat and vegetables meal after that.

Kirsty has helped me establish these routines from the early days, so that I had a good base to carry me through to the highest level of the professional game.

As you have learned to eat better for your sport, has this rubbed off on friends and family?

My wife has participated in a lot of sport herself, and she appreciates the role of diet in performance. She has been really good at making sure that we have a healthy diet each week, she watches the sugar content and nutrient make-up of the foods we buy so that we both have energy for the week. When we shop, she makes sure that we have the foods we need for our family. We both care a lot about what we feed our young daughter.

Has it rubbed off on team-mates?

I think I’m lucky that a lot of the guys in my teams have the same goals, so we all receive the same advice and we all value the role of nutrition in becoming better players. It is much easier when you are all supportive of each other in trying to get better. In some positions it is more influential than in others. A good example is the front row: they watch what they eat really carefully to ensure that they are in great shape for the game; but manage their diet a bit differently to me (as an outside back). They are all getting really good advice and are all really invested in that. It helps that skinfolds (body fat) is tested regularly so we all know where each other is at! A bit of healthy competition between team-mates :-).

Colin Slade

Colin Slade - Professional Rugby Union player

How does eating well helps your performance, and life?

The food I eat is very important as it gives me the energy I need to train harder, recover better and perform better. Eating the right foods can be one area that can help me edge out my opposition. Anyone can train hard, or eat well but doing both can be the difference between staying the same and increasing my performance levels. You wouldn't put poor quality petrol in a race car would you?

What makes Kirsty an effective Sports Dietitian?

Kirst was firstly nice to deal with, knowledgeable, and easy to work with. She listened and adapted to the athletes because every athlete is different. 

What changes to your diet did you really appreciate or enjoy making?

When I first started professionally I was all about supplements, particularly protein intake. Now I prefer a balanced diet of healthy food, including fruits and vegetables and less reliant on products. 

How your nutrition habits have changed as a result of the nutrition coaching that you have received from Kirsty? Do you make different choices now?

It's funny because I don't notice how much my eating habits have changed until I'm around a non-elite athlete eg. family and friends, or younger players who are new to professionalism. They still regularly eat fast food, processed food, fizzy drink, regular alcohol intake, whereas I've sort of eliminated most of those foods from my everyday life just naturally over time. Although the odd piece of chocolate or ice cream still manages to find its way in there ;-).

The major thing I benefited from is that I was taught early and started my habits early. Changing habits can be hard and most people will come around once they realise that nutrition will help them perform better. 

As you have learned to eat better for your sport, has this rubbed off on team-mates, friends and family?

Yes, absolutely. I'm not one to over preach or force people to eat a certain way but I guess if younger guys can see the way I treat nutrition as a necessary element of being a professional rugby player then I guess I'm teaching along the way. Certainly my wife has naturally been forced to prepare healthier meals because she's the one who cooks most of the time!