The Olympic games are the pivotal barometer for athletic achievement, so one could conclude that the training requirements for these elite athletes would have to be world-class. It would also lead you to believe that these specimens would inevitably be ultra-conscientious of what they feed themselves to achieve peak performance.
Obviously, since the human body needs to replenish after physical activity, professional athletes of Olympic caliber require many more calories than the average “lifestyle athlete”. We’re not talking about the meathead at your local McGym who tells fellow lifters to consume three fast food pizzas for breakfast (I’m not kidding- I have actually overheard this conversation). Meals need to be scientifically prepared for these individuals based on their respective sport and energetic needs. Not one detail is overlooked. Nutritionists and coaches are employed specifically to address caloric and nutritional requirements during strenuous training.
Swimmers, for instance, require upwards of around 6,000 calories per day while training for competition. High quantities of calorie-dense, energy-boosting carbohydrates are essential to meet the demands of a swimmer’s regimen. A gymnast, however, would need far fewer calories per day, as any unnecessary weight could impede their performance. Swimmer Michael Phelps famously disclosed during the 2008 summer Olympics his 12,000 daily caloric intake. Imagine the fate of a balance beam or parallel bars if any of Team USA’s gymnasts adopted the same diet? Instead, a gymnast’s protein intake is much higher than that of a swimmer: roughly sixty to seventy percent of their daily calorie allotment.
Quality of food is also crucial when considering the high stakes of battle between the world’s finest contenders. The U.S. Olympic team is armed this year with a top-notch, award-winning nutrition center modeled after USOC’s headquarters in Colorado Springs. This place takes sports nutrition to a whole new, uncharted level. The center’s Performance-Based Menu was created to give America’s athletes every advantage by providing the highest quality of food possible. Teammates are served a wide variety of foods, ranging from a thoroughly-stocked salad bar to organic beef burgers. A “recovery station” is set up to provide post-workout shakes, yogurt, and fruit.
What seems to be the recurring consensus among professional athletes is: you get out of your body what you put into it. Respecting what you feed your body, as fuel will take you as far as you want to go. Breakfast is king. Hydration is imperative. Pizza? Wait until the Games are over.
Jodilyn Stuart is the owner of ModaBody Fitness and has been a fitness professional since 1997. She has recently begun contributing to 303 Magazine as a fitness writer.