Eat Like an Olympian! Or Not…

by Louise | August 7th, 2012 | Eating Tips

If you ate like an Olympic athlete, would you be in better shape?

While it sounds like a vaguely plausible question at first, it actually doesn’t lend itself to a particularly useful answer. First of all, there are twenty-six different sports included in the 2012 Summer Olympics.

There is archery, athletics, water polo, weightlifting, and everything in between. With so many different sports requiring different levels of skill and fitness, you can imagine that diets among Olympic athletes vary quite a bit.

There are Olympic athletes who eat as little as 1,500 calories each day, and then those that consume over 5,000! With that said, it’s pretty clear that there is no such thing as an Olympic athlete diet.

If you did look in depth at a single sport or even a single athlete, you would most likely run into more trouble. Most Olympians spend all four years leading up to the event (and possibly/probably many more before that) focusing on training. The typical Olympic swimmer eats between 3,000 and 6,000 calories spread across many meals each day. If you literally wanted to eat like an Olympian, you would have to train like one as well.

Michael Phelps would not have been able to swim the 40+ miles that he did every week if he had another 40-hour job; that’s because swimming was his job. Do you know how many calories Phelps is rumored to consume in a day to sustain his workouts? 12,000 calories. If your typical diet is 2,000 calories and instead you ate 12,000 calories for a week (which I imagine would actually be very difficult to do), you would gain 20 pounds from those excess calories! Mimicking Phelps’ diet certainly won’t do you any good.

The diet of Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake, which includes 16 ripe bananas (for their potassium) on a daily basis, is probably out of the question as well. One or two bananas per day might be a more reasonable amount for your everyday (5-6 days a week, rather) athlete.

I’m willing to bet that you can find a good number of Olympic athletes eating their fair share of junk food. After all, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola are still top sponsors for the Olympics. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few athletes have a habit of eating a specific “unhealthy” food before their event. I know a talented runner who has a can of Dr. Pepper before every cross country race, because she once drank it before the race in which she won a national title.

Bottom line: while eating well is a critical part of training for the majority of Olympic athletes, perhaps we should pay more attention to their performance in the sport rather than the cafeteria!

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