This season, the Carleton Ravens women’s hockey team have a student sport nutrition intern working with them until December.
Aja Gyimah comes from the Nutrition Communications program at Ryerson University. She is currently doing a two-month practicum component with the Ravens.
Prior to Ryerson, Gyimah spent her undergraduate degree at Western University, where she completed the Nutrition and Dietetics program.
An athlete herself, Gyimah played on the varsity women’s volleyball team at Western.
“In elementary school I was always the tallest kid in my class and was pretty self-conscious about it. Once I heard volleyball was the sport for tall people, I signed up for school volleyball tryouts in grade five and never looked back,” Gyimah recalled.
Prior to playing for the Mustangs, Gyimah played for the Scarborough Titans Volleyball Club, the U18 Leaside Volleyball Club, as well as some stints on Team Ontario. She also represented Canada at an international tournament.
“I’m happy to say that I’ve had success with all my teams. I’ve medalled on the international stage, won nationals twice, and provincials once. However, what makes these moments memorable is knowing how hard we had to work to achieve those goals as a team, and that is what warms my heart,” Gyimah said about her most memorable moments.
in her decision in going to Western and playing volleyball there, Western is one of three schools in Ontario that offers the Nutrition and Dietetics program.
“We medalled every year at the OUA championships, but my favourite memory was playing in the national championships in 2017. We ended up losing in quarterfinals, but the experience of playing in such a high-calibre tournament with my best friends was unreal,” Gyimah said.
Gyimah joined the Ravens due to her practicum coordinator letting her know about the opportunity.
“My job with the team is to provide game-day meals and snacks so they can fuel, refuel & recover efficiently. I also help them build their nutrition skills with sport nutrition workshops, and provide individual counselling to help athletes meet their nutrition goals,” Gyimah said.
The Ravens recently flew to New Brunswick for three exhibition games. Ravens head coach Pierre Alain praised Gyimah’s nutrition and meal planning.
“She did a great job. She took care of all the meals, so, just making sure that the players eat properly, and also, they eat at the right time, and it was perfect. Everything went well on the nutrition side,” Alain said.
The Ravens ended up winning all of their games in New Brunswick.
Ravens forward Jenna Mitchell also praised Gyimah’s time with the team and how the meal planning has helped the team with their energy for games.
“Aja’s amazing. I think everyone really loves Aja, and she’s giving us a lot of knowledge that we can take with us later on in life. I think that her meals are really fueling us up for these games, everyone believes in her, and all the knowledge that she comes with,” Mitchell said.
When Gyimah came in mid-August, she ran a nutrition workshop for the team on meal planning.
“The athletes learned the basics of healthy eating, how to plan their meals around their training schedule and also had to prove to me that they knew what they were doing via Instagram stories,” Gyimah said.
In terms of what sport nutrition does in helping the team during their season, Gyimah said that without proper nutrition, athletes don’t play the way they usually do.
“Nutrition can’t turn an average athlete into an elite athlete, but it can definitely make an elite athlete play like an average athlete. Without proper nutrition and hydration, we just don’t play like ourselves. Teaching the athletes how to fuel, refuel and recover will help them play like the elite athletes they are,” she said.
So far, Gyimah’s most memorable moment working with the Ravens has been the Instagram story challenge she gave the team.
For the challenge, the athletes had to post pictures of their meals using meal-planning tools she gave them and tag her so she could see them.
“I loved to see the creativity and enthusiasm from the team,” she said.
As for what she hopes to accomplish as the team’s sport nutrition intern, Gyimah said she hopes once she leaves in December, the team can fuel and refuel effectively without her around.
“I will know that I have done my job when the athletes can effectively fuel, refuel and recover on their own, without me around. The skills they learn will help them eat for optimal performance and optimal health,” she said.
In terms of her future, Gyimah hopes to one day do what she’s doing with the women’s hockey team as a career.
“I’ve always pictured myself doing workshops, providing nutrition counselling and helping athletes achieve their nutrition and athletic performance goals.”
If you’re interested in tips on meal-planning and overall nutrition, check out Gyimah’s Instagram page at @ajamadeya