Mitchell McClenaghan makes a healthy choice

16:00, Jan 25 2014
Mitchell McClenaghan and Rohit Sharma
WELCOME: Black Caps quick bowler Mitchell McClenaghan makes Rohit Sharma's acquaintance, during Sunday’s one-day international in Napier.

Mitchell McClenaghan describes it as cave man style eating. He chomps through almond and coconut cereal, organic fruit and biltong, fuelling the New Zealand fast bowler who farewells his victims with a primal roar. No dairy, bread, potatoes and certainly no beer to be seen here.

McClenaghan is the poster boy for the paleo diet and CrossFit, the core strength and conditioning programme. It changed his life so much that he put his money where his mouth was nine months ago, and with a mate, Ryan Kamins, set up a company, Clean Paleo, to sell the vital ingredients to fellow converts.

An Auckland University graduate with a commerce degree in marketing and accounting, McClenaghan counts 40 stores nationwide with their products like vacuum-sealed biltong and free-range egg white protein powder, flavoured with freeze dried fruit.

The benefits are obvious. New Zealand's wicket-taking machine had 48 scalps from 20 ODIs heading into yesterday's third ODI at Eden Park, and the 27-year-old shows no sign of slowing down.

"I try to do the diet 70-80 per cent, purely because I'm on the road all the time and it's quite hard to get exactly what I need," McClenaghan said.

"It makes me feel less bloated and gives me more energy and it's helped me lose a lot of weight and get fit, and helped me get back to good health when I was injured."

That means no hamburger and chips for dinner, but chicken, fish or steak with kumara mash and broccoli. Grain, sugar, dairy and carbohydrates are out, along with any processed food. The toughest to resist? "Definitely ice cream," he laughs.

And when his team-mates toast victory with a cold bottle in the dressing-room, McClenaghan's contains water.

"In the past year I've probably had six bottles of beer. I still stick around with the boys and celebrate with them but I've found my body doesn't respond well to it. Performing at the highest level during a series, I don't like to drink. That's just a personal preference; people can do what they like."

He credits CrossFit for getting him back on the park and into the New Zealand team after a series of injuries threatened his career in his early 20s. He required three separate surgeries on his hips.

After moving back from Central Districts to Auckland, his younger brother, Tate, showed him CrossFit and he was instantly a convert to the high-intensity workouts which mix weights, stretching and running.

It's making an impact in the New Zealand dressing-room among McClenaghan's fellow fast bowlers, too, with the team's strength and conditioning coach, Chris Donaldson, the former Olympic sprinter, a CrossFit man from way back.

New Zealand's latest matchwinner, all-rounder Corey Anderson, is McClenaghan's latest project.

"Corey will pick it up pretty quickly. We were in England and went to the gym and Chris ran him through some CrossFit movements, a lot of the Olympic lifting and Corey's really taken to that. I look at the amount of power he's got and the way he lifts, power cleans and stuff like that - I can only think it's doing wonders for his cricket," McClenaghan said.

"The guys are doing a lot more gym sessions, not CrossFit per se but they're lifting a lot more. Just watching them lift, they're quite impressive and guys are getting stronger, fitter and faster."

Watching Anderson clear the rope against the Indian bowlers this past week, it's hard to argue.

McClenaghan began the current series weighing in at 110kg, and as of yesterday was 106kg. By the time the World Twenty20 comes up in March, he hopes to be at his "fighting weight" of 102kg. After his surgery he was up to 115kg, but after intensive CrossFit and paleo diet he's been as low as 96kg. Squats, power cleans and kettle bell swings are all as much a part of McClenaghan's vernacular as waking up and getting dressed.

"For any sport - rugby, cricket, athletics - CrossFit allows you to lift weights quicker and build strength and endurance and power-based movement. I look at cricket as really explosive. You've got to run it and at the crease everything is explosive.

"Before starting it, I was potentially a bit mentally weak ... In the past I might have run away but now I'd attribute mental toughness skills through doing CrossFit with the way I can perform.''


Fairfax Media