If you’ve ever wondered how these athletes fuel their bodies before an event, we’re sharing nutrition tips from Olympic nutritionists!
5 Nutrition Tips Olympic Athletes Follow
When you think of Olympic athletes, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? I guarantee it’s not nutrition! Well, nutrition is actually seen as an equally important part of Olympic training as physical training is. When the difference between winning gold or silver can be less than 1 second, or 1/5 of a point, it’s no surprise that these athletes pay close attention to exactly what, and when to eat.
Until recently I had no idea how much focus the Olympic Games placed on nutrition. There are even specific dietitian’s that play a huge role in determining what foods make their way onto the menus in the Olympic dining halls. All of the food choices are made strategically to ensure these athletes are being offered the foods they need to re-fuel after intense events. Many Olympic athletes even have their own sports nutritionists to guide them on how to eat to win gold.
Well, since we all can’t have sport nutritionists following us around telling us what to eat all day I am here to let you in on some secret Olympic nutrition tips to help you improve your athletic performance! I will also shed some light on what it’s really like to eat in an Olympic dining hall, and I promise it’s nothing like what you think!
5 Olympian Nutrition Tips:
Tip #1: Treat Food as Fuel
Olympic athletes look at food differently than most. These athletes look as food as a way to fuel their bodies for peak performance. Food is equally as important as physical training, and athletes at this level take nutrition extremely seriously. Just as sleep, and recovery are important parts of their training, nutrition is included as part of their training schedules.
Do you think about food as fuel, or do you find yourself mindlessly eating throughout the day? Either way you can easily start thinking about what you are eating on a daily basis, and ask yourself is this going to fuel your body, or lead to disease, and inflammation? If food isn’t doing anything for your health, skip it and find something that will! Getting into this Olympian mindset will help you achieve your health goals faster than ever before.
As an easy way to get started, start by tracking your food. You are more likely to eat clean and healthy when you are mindfully recording what you put into your body every single day. At the end of the day, it’s up to us to decide what we feed our bodies, so make healthy choices and fuel your body like an Olympian!
Tip #2: Eat Smaller More Frequent Meals
Olympic athletes are training for hours every single day, and in order to keep up with the amount of calories burned, and sustain energy these athletes will eat every 4 hours! Now, that may sound like a lot to you but think about it, if you’re exercising for hours at a time your body is going to run out of energy stores fairly quickly. Many athletes stick to a regular pattern of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and add in 2 nutritious snacks to get them through training sessions.
How can this eating pattern benefit you? Eating smaller more frequent meals can help prevent overeating, and can keep your metabolism revved throughout the day! Who doesn’t want a faster metabolism? Although you won’t need as many calories as an Olympic athlete does, following the same nutrition tips can improve your overall diet, and help with weight loss. Stick with breakfast, lunch, and dinner and then add in 2 high protein snacks with complex carbohydrates to help promote energy, and successful workouts! A great snack would include a cup of unsweetened Greek style yogurt topped with fresh berries, and a handful of nuts.
Tip #3: Eat Fish!
Surely you have heard about the benefits of eating certain fish, and especially wild caught salmon. Olympic athletes have jumped aboard this nutrition trend, and are expected to eat more than 82 tons of seafood at this year’s Olympic Games! (1) Athletes are opting for seafood to gain powerful anti-inflammatory benefits to help reduce inflammation in their overused muscles and tired joints, while gaining high quality protein to re-fuel their bodies for the next event. A popular pick among Olympians is canned tuna. It’s not only cheap, but it’s super convenient, and who doesn’t love cheap, and healthy foods?
So how can adding more fish into your diet benefit you? Consuming fish weekly can help to ensure you are getting optimal amounts of omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for reducing inflammation, preventing diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight, and can even boost brain health! No wonder Olympians are chowing down on fish at this year’s Olympic Games.
Tip #4: Boost your Protein Intake
It’s probably no surprise that Olympic athletes eat a diet high in protein, however it’s where the protein comes from that’s important, and may actually surprise you! Anyone can fuel up on protein and call it a day, but choosing high quality protein sources is going to fuel the athlete’s body for all day training sessions, and provide an abundant source of energy.
Alicia Kendig, a senior sport dietitian at the United States Olympic Committee talks about the protein found in Olympians meals and snacks. Some of the foods they include are fish, Greek yogurt, beef, poultry and beans. Sounds easy enough, right?
Including some of these healthy protein options into your diet can be super simple. Try having Greek yogurt with some nuts and seeds with breakfast, and optimizing your protein intake by adding fish, beef, or poultry to lunch and dinner, with a side salad topped with beans. Follow those guidelines, and you’ll be eating like an Olympian in no time!
Tip #5: It’s all About the 85-15 Rule
Are you ready for some relieving news? Here it is, even Olympic athletes aren’t perfect when it comes to their diet! You can now breathe a sigh of relief, and realize that a healthy lifestyle is never about perfection. Many of these athletes will follow the performance nutrition tips 85% of the time, and then allow for a more relaxed approach to the remaining 15%. Life is not about being perfect, if you can eat clean and healthy 85% of the time, you are well on your way to reaching your health and fitness goals! After all trying to be perfect 100% of the time is a means for failure, and as you can see even Olympic athletes aren’t perfect!
Facts on What it’s really like to eat in the Olympic Dining Hall
- In order to accommodate for the hungry athletes from all over the world, Rio’s dining hall is as long as 4 Olympic pools.
- Rio’s dining hall can accommodate up to 18,000 people, and up to 460,000 pounds of food every single day! (2)
- The food that is served to athletes has been through countless trials, and dietitians give feedback on how to improve the final menu.
- Menu options are scrutinized for optimal protein, carbohydrate, and fat content as well as if there are enough options for food preferences among thousands of athletes. It is thought that getting onto the menu at the Olympic dining hall may actually be equally as hard as making it into the Olympics!
- Dietitians circle the dining hall to be sure that serving sizes are accurate and that all athletes have access to nutritional information! Sounds pretty intense, right?
Who knew that all of this went on behind the scenes at the Olympic Games? Turns out food is a bigger component in athletic performance than at first glance.
Are you ready to follow these nutrition tips and eat like an Olympian?
Try these quick and healthy breakfast ideas!
Rebecca Jacobs N.C is a Certified Nutrition Consultant, and owner of Holistic Balance Nutrition. Her specialties include digestive health and weight loss, where she has been helping clients reach their weight loss goals since 2015. Rebecca’s approach is different from others, because she believes in a no dieting and individualized approach to healthy living, and believes that healthy eating must be delicious. She is passionate about helping others find their balance and getting to the root cause of their weight gain, or health issues through the power of nutrition.