The Interviews: Aspiring Sports Nutritionist with Aiveen Connolly

Hello everyone. I firstly want to thank Emma for having me on her new interview series.  My name is Aiveen Connolly and I am currently living in Cavan, Ireland. I have recently graduated with a BSc. (Hons) in Human Nutrition. I also have an Instagram page @aiveen_nutrition where I post all things Human Nutrition & Sports Nutrition; Mental Health & Wellbeing and Physical Health & Fitness.

I was always interested in nutrition and food and during my years in college I became more into health and fitness especially going to the gym. I was always into fitness doing so many sports when I was young, and I was a competitive swimmer during the ages of 8-15years. I’ve always loved swimming and I am a qualified  lifeguard  and swimming instructor too. To this day, I still love anything to do with the water, the sea, the beach, its truly is my happy place.

I am in the process of applying for a registered Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) with the Association for Nutrition (AFN) and I hope to start a Sports Nutrition course very soon as well.

How did you first get into nutrition?

I’ve always had an interest in nutrition and I’m such a foodie. Growing up, my mam would have made home cooked meals, there was very little frozen food in the house and we wouldn’t have many takeaways either, so I think my mum is where I found my love for food, home cooked meals, whole foods, fresh foods, etc.

What interests you in regards to sports nutrition?

When I started going to the gym and really taking it seriously about 2years ago, I wondered if I should be taking more of certain foods because I’m going to the gym so this is where the sports nutrition side of things really interested me. I did a module in sports nutrition during my college degree and I really enjoyed it and found it very fascinating. I also did my final year research project around sports nutrition and I loved doing my thesis because it was a topic I didn’t know a lot about but throughout doing it I found it very interesting and definitely an area I want to explore and learn more about.

Have you taken part in any projects or voluntary work that has helped with your nutrition degree?

As part of my final year in college, I completed a research project which focused on the micronutrient intake for Irish male soccer players. This is where I really became fascinated with sports nutrient not just the macronutrient (protein carbohydrates and fats) side of things but with micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). There is a lot of emphasis, especially within sports nutrition, around the importance of macronutrient intake for athletes and sometimes micronutrients are overlooked. During my research project, I found that micronutrients are just as important as macronutrients because they play a huge role in the body. Having a micronutrient deficiency in one or more micronutrients may have negative effects for athletes and could hinder their optimal sports performance in their training sessions and/or coming up to competitions. Recently I’ve been learning more about micronutrients and the dietary and nutritional supplements that are on the market today i.e. protein powders/bars and vitamin and mineral supplementation, so it’s an area I want to further educate myself on.

What is your five-year plan?

I have so many ideas for the future. Firstly, I want to apply to become an ANutr which may take some time as I have to apply via portfolio entry. I would like to do my Masters in Sport Nutrition in the next few years as well.

My career goal would beto provide general nutrition advice to clients online but also to work with sport teams, like football teams, rugby teams, to become their nutritionists or go around to local sports teams to educate athletes on the importance of sports nutrition because I found through doing my final year project, there was a lack of knowledge and awareness about sports nutrition and dietary supplements.

Ultimately, I would love to be a sports nutritionist for a swimming team as it is a sport I would be more familiar with.

Asides from my career goals and plans, I am such a travel lover. I love to travel to different countries and experience their culture and way of living, not to mention trying out some of their top national dishes. Once I graduated from college, I wanted to travel but unfortunately that did not happen due to the pandemic. I miss travelling so much right now but once it is safe to travel again, it will be a great excuse to make up for lost time.

What would you say to anyone looking into studying nutrition?

If you can, speak to anyone you know who is studying or has studied nutrition in the past, to see what they thought of it, what college they went to, what they liked or didn’t like, etc.  Or speak to anyone in the nutrition field that you may follow on Facebook or Instagram and ask them about their experiences. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or get in contact with people.

If you are deciding which college degree to apply for after your Leaving Cert, I would say look into the course content and the course modules of the degree because some colleges may have different modules and it is important to make sure you have an interest in the modules the college/degree offers.

Lastly, I would say Just go for it! I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do after my Leaving Certificate but knew I had an interest in nutrition, so I went for it and now I think it is such a lovely field to work in. There are so many opportunities in nutrition and so many different pathways you could go down. Nutrition is so broad and whether it is becoming a dietitian, or sports nutritionist or going down the health promotion or research route, there is something for everyone.

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