Interview with Nutritionist Ruth McKean


Ruth completing the 7 day Canadian Race - Transrockies

Age – 34 years old 


Hometown: I was born in Ireland but moved to Edinburgh when I was eleven so Edinburgh feels like my hometown.


Brief Bio – I have a degree in Sports Science & Master degrees in Sports Nutrition & Dietetics. I now work as a Performance Nutritionist.

I have attained a reasonable standard in sport; running for Scotland in Cross country & was national 5km track champion. I have also placed second & third at national championship events in duathlon and mountain biking respectively.


I met Ruth at the Edinburgh City Chambers during a civic reception to honour Mark Beaumont, we spoke at length about my challenge and health in general. I understood how passionate you were about your work and since then you have been a great supporter of my goals, I am delighted to have you answer some of my questions now!

Can you tell us a little about the work that you currently do?

I work for Sportscotlands Institute of Sport which I love, I get to work with athletes preparing for world stage events: world championships, Commonwealth Games & the Olympics. It is a very exciting time to be involved with the Institute as we have London 2012 around the corner & of course the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. I also do freelance work on other nutrition based projects.

Have you always been interested in Nutrition? What sparked this interest?

I went to University to study Sport Science, a number of years ago now! At the end of my first year & into my second year I studied Sports Nutrition, at a time when I was starting to run seriously, so it was very relevant to me at the time and it was the subject I choose to do for my final year dissertation. My passion has continued since, more than 10 years on
You have worked with some top athletes like Mark Beaumont, it must be exciting when you hear of someone willing to push themselves to the limit and even beyond?

Mark is remarkable! I think all athletes would like to believe they have the ability to push themselves as Mark did in his challenges but I think very few would endure what he has day on day.


What three simple things can people do to make their diet a healthier one?

  • ·         A variety of foods. If you eat lots of different coloured and type of fruit & vegetables and a good variety of proteins (for example meat, fish, nuts, pulses etc) then the more varied your vitamin and mineral intake will be.
  • ·         Eat as little processed food as possible.
  • ·         Eat appropriate portions to your needs.

As you said you work with Sport Scotland, you must have been very proud of all our athletes performance in Delhi?

Yes, 26 medals and for many of the medallists they were young and at their first games which is a good sign for 2014!

With the Commonwealth and Olympic Games coming to the UK in 2012 and 2014 it promised to be a brilliant few years for sport in the UK. You must be excited?

I think it must be the best time to be working in elite sport in Britain. Although I work with athletes who have competed at the CWG & the Olympics I have never been to either so I am excited to have the chance to go these events, literally on my doorstep.

Considering the amount of money that is invested in large sporting event like the World Cup, do you think some of that should be fed down to grass roots sports on a more consistent basis?

I do think a lack of sport facilities is a big issue in Britain generally so it would be great to see more of these and at reasonably cost to use. However money is not always the answer, you only have to go your local track or football ground on a cold winter’s night to meet some fantastic volunteer coaches willing to give up their time to encourage kids in sport.

You recently gave birth, how are you finding that and are you back running yet? I remember you telling me you were going mad not being able to exercise properly!

I do struggle if I don’t get my exercise fix as sport has been such a big part of my life although during this pregnancy dealing with a one and a two year old already and work commitments it did suffer! but  I am back doing some biking but no running as  yet. I choose not to run until 12 weeks after a birth due to risk of injury and probably won’t run too much until I have stopped feeding but have started to look at some running events for next summer!

If you could change three things about the way people think about food what would they be?

  • ·         Include exercise as part of normal routine. If you exercise regularly I think you feel better about yourself & I think this is the best way to change you attitude to food. (if you feel you need to change the way you think about food).
  • ·         I know it has been said a lot but some people try and change too many things at once, eating like exercise is a lifestyle you have to adopt and you really do need to make small changes.
  • ·         If you are an emotional eater or have very poor eating habits it may be worth finding out why you do this (is there a trigger and how do you react to this? or perhaps sleep and lifestyle needs addressing which would make eating healthier easier).

Any heroes? Sporting or Non? 

The unsung heroes of those volunteer coaches!

What does the future hold for you?

To get back into some hill running & adventure racing & I would love to write a book!

Thank you Ruth! I look forward to meeting up for a chat about our own challenges in the new year.

About Mark Cooper

My name is Mark Cooper, I am an ultra runner, motivational speaker, expedition consultant and public relations rookie. I help people achieve greatness in their lives. For bookings or more information you can email
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