What gives Olympic athletes the power to break world records, compete at an international level and win medals? In addition to their extensive training and perseverance, these athletes also have to follow a strict diet that suits the goals of their sport or event. Check out these tips for eating like a world-class athlete in order to get in shape and power up your performance.
Although greens are great for everyone, swimmers in particular may lean towards a plant-based diet due to its many health benefits. Darker greens like kale, romaine and spinach are great for a swimmer’s diet thanks to their low-calorie, nutrient-rich, high-fiber content. Swimmer Natalie Coughlin – an 11-time Olympic medalist – swears by her greens; she even keeps seven vegetable beds for herself because she consumes so much of them as part of her training.
Swimmers’ diet may also vary based on which events they are preparing for. Those who train for longer events where endurance is key may need more carbs, while shorter events may be more suited to a protein heavy diet.
Gymnasts have to eat a diet that contributes more to their physical strength than to their endurance due to the nature of the sport. For most Olympic gymnasts, that means cutting back on the carbs and focusing more on protein. MSNBC reports that most gymnasts get about 60-70 percent of their diet from proteins like eggs, chicken, fish and low-fat cheese. That’s the route that Olympic gymnast Stephen McCain has discovered works best for this sport – especially because the proteins help with the short bursts of energy required to perform gymnastic events.
Running, whether it’s for short or long distances, takes a toll on your body and requires lots of energy. To get that energy, many track and field competitors rely on regular snacks to keep them fueled and ready to go. Olympic gold medalist Natasha Hastings, a sprinter, uses granola bars and dried fruit to keep her energy levels up on the day of a race. Meanwhile, long-distance runner and Olympic bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan eats bananas, apples or energy chews for that extra pep. Whatever the snack, make sure it’s healthy and includes some carbs to give you a boost.
Like swimmers, track and field athletes may have different diets based on their strengths. Long-distance runners often favor carb-heavy diets, while those who perform short sprints or hurdles typically perform better with more protein in their daily regimen.
If you’re looking for more of the muscled side of track and field, look to Adam Nelson (Olympic silver medalist in the shot-put) for advice. He makes sure to get 300 grams of protein per day when he’s training, eating foods like salmon, turkey, eggs and protein shakes over the course of the day. While this amount of protein is more than the average person needs, it’s important to get that protein if you want to increase your strength and improve your performance.
In addition to the specific tips for each sport listed above, there are also some handy pieces of advice that work well for anyone who wants to get in shape or improve their athletic performance, such as:
Keep in mind that the typical Olympic athlete’s daily diet isn’t fit for the average person; they usually consume hundreds or even thousands more calories per day to keep up with their strict training regimen. If you need help forming an Olympic-style diet that works for your lifestyle, consult your doctor or a nutritionist for the best possible advice.