Last January we did a story as a part of the “Road To Rio” series with Irene Gardner. At the time Irene had come off a great season with the Berkeley All Blues and was in the pool of players vying for a spot on the USA Rugby Women’s 7s team for Rio. It was at that time we found out about Irene's professional work as a dietitian. We followed back up with Irene afterwards to see if she’d be interested in bestowing some of her nutritional expertise to the ruggers and she agreed!
We will let Irene tell you about here self below and she will be providing several articles coming this fall that tackle a various nutritional topics as they relate to sports and specifically rugby. In addition to sharing some really useful information with our readers Irene is now going into business herself where she will providing nutritional advice.
Her practice will be knows as IG Nutrition. She will have her website up in October (and we’ll have a link on our resource page). Her web designer is a bit behind because he had been competing in the ParaOlympics in Rio (that’s a legit reason to be a bit behind schedule). Irene will be providing nutrition sessions in her office, so for those in the bay area who want a sport dietitian to assist with their performance look her up. She’ll be based out of RaisetheBarFitness (in San Francisco on Taraval St and 27th Ave). She will also have on-line video sessions for those who prefer remote visits.
Irene will also be offering a wellness program called IG356 Wellness Program which will be a monthly membership program and will use an app. Irene says the clients will be able to personalize their nutrition goals, keep a picture food log, track their physical activity, and send and received messaged directly to her as often as they need! So with this app/program you can have Irene as your personal dietitian to provide basic feedback and as she says “consistent accountability” to reach nutritional and health goals!
This is in addition to all the rugby work Irene has done and the role she continues to play in the local rugby community. Irene who has assisted in some of the coaching in the past with the Cal Women’sRugby team will now be working with local youth and high school athletes (and still promoting the game of rugby).
We asked Irene to share with us her bio so we could show everyone her qualification, but also how she came into the nutrition field (we covered her rugby story a bit in our initial piece with her). We also wanted you to see why we felt Irene is the ideal person to help us tackle some nutritional topics. Check in regularly or follow us on social media as we'll be having some great insight from Irene.
Getting Into Nutrition
By Irene Gardner, MS, RD, CSSD
Starting off at Cal, I had no idea what I wanted to study. I enjoyed science but also enjoyed writing, and definitely maintained my childhood love of sports. I took a variety of classes and in my second semester enrolled in an Intro to Nutrition class. After the first few classes, it was clear to me I wanted to pursue a degree in Nutrition. I wanted to further understand the role of nutrients in the body and the consequences of limited food access or unbalanced nutrition choices. As I picked up rugby shortly after, my interest in nutrition and athletics merged.
I finished at Cal with a BS in Nutritional Sciences with an emphasis in Dietetics, where I also played 3 years of rugby. I then went on to complete my Dietetic Internship at Life University to become a Registered Dietitian, and earned my Masters in Nutrition from the University of Alabama.
Playing for the Berkeley All Blues and the Women’s 7s National Team demanded a higher level of training, which included the component of nutrition. I used my knowledge of the role of nutrition to build muscle mass, to prepare for trainings and competitions, to maximize my performance on the pitch, and to recover more quickly and effectively.
More recently, I became a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.
Learn more about a Sport Dietitian here: http://www.scandpg.org/sports-dietitian-job-description/
As a Sports Dietitian, it is my aim to inspire and educate on nutrition behaviors and habits that support an athletes individual goals. Participation in sports is inclusive of all ages, and therefore, from childhood to adulthood, an understanding of nutrition will contribute to our performance and recovery at all stages in life.
I find it especially important to expose school-aged children to healthful nutrition practices. Just like any sport, we need to learn, try, and practice. The same goes for our nutrition. Understanding the role of nutrients in the body and how and when to eat them supports a healthy body and prevents illness. When it comes to sports it is important that children, teens, and adults alike, are eating adequate variety and quantities to support sports and everyday activity.
I have worked with athletes of various athletic backgrounds, from individual sports and team sports, including rugby. As a player myself, I have a good understanding of the barriers to eating to support performance. It’s hard. Balancing what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat is a challenge. However, the rewards of improved preparation, performance, and recovery in sport are invaluable.
It is my hope to be a resource for athletes, especially young rugby players. It’s a combination of my two greatest passions - Rugby and Nutrition.
The values that are derived from rugby and the knowledge gained from nutrition education can become foundations to a healthy and active life that carries us far beyond participation in sport.
Irene’s Rugby Resume:
USA Rugby Women’s 7s National Team 2011-2016
Berkeley All Blues 7s 2010-2014, National Champions 2011 & 2013, MVP 2013
Berkeley All Blues 15s, 2010-2013, National Champions 2011 & 2012
Pacific Coast Grizzlies 7s, 2010-2013, National All Star Champions 2011
Cal Women’s Rugby Club, player 2004-2007, 7s coach 2014
2016 Cal Women’s Rugby Hall of Fame Inductee
2015 Pan American Games Rugby 7s Silver Medal
2013 Rugby World Cup 7s Bronze Medal