Adapted from the Nutrition and You! blog on Boston.com.
All Olympic athletes, whether they are competing in alpine skiing, luge, figure skating, or curling, know that the food and nutrition consumed during training and competition are key factors in helping them bring home the gold.
“Training diets are usually higher in calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals than competition diets. This is because the athlete is working harder during training, often two to three times a day at high-intensities, building both strength and power,” said Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, RDN, who worked with athletes at the Atlanta Olympic Games and is the editor of Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals.
“Proper fueling during training supports the adaptations to muscles, blood, and lungs by providing key nutrients at the right time.”
According to the US Olympic Committee Sport Performance Division, consuming a diet rich in antioxidants such as fruits, vegetables, and grains is also important to fortify the athletes’ immune system prior to traveling and competition. Because athletes fuel their bodies and stay hydrated with foods and beverages that are familiar to them,
TeamUSA also sent sports dietitians to Sochi prior to the Winter Games. Their job was to assess the availability and safety of the foods that are being served to the athletes in the Olympic Village.
So what do these athletes eat to compete? “Since Olympians come in all shapes and sizes and have different goals, they do not all have the same requirements for nutrition. A figure skater trying to maintain a lean physique may consume 1,800 to 2,000 calories daily whereas a cross-country skier with a huge energy expenditure may consume over 4,000 calories per day,” said Jennifer Gibson, United States Olympic Committee sports dietitian.
“It differs from athlete to athlete, but typically they eat four to six meals per day, evenly spaced out, and no more than four hours apart.”
The fiber is typically reduced in an athlete’s diet to avoid any upset stomachs or other intestinal unpleasantness, according to Rosenbloom. “No athlete wants to go into competition feeling gassy or bloated,” he said.
Because post-training recovery snacks are also important, here are Gibson’s top five easy, portable, and tasty snacks for athletes:
1. Chocolate milk or soy milk + banana + water
2. Greek yogurt + apple + water
3. A shake with fruit + protein + water
4. High protein cereals like Mini Wheats or Kashi + milk or soymilk + water
5. A chicken, turkey, or tuna sandwich + fruit + waterRead more of this blog at Boston.com/Nutritionandyou.