Imagine training for 4-6 hours a day 6 days a week for years! Pushing your body, your stress level, your sleeping habits, and even your eating habits. Will there ever be a time when everything feels balanced. Monitoring sleep, stress, and body stress are all very important when training for the Olympics. However, the quote “You’re only as good as your last meal” has some merit. For example: It has been reported that Michael Phelps’ consumed 4,000 calories for breakfast – including a five egg omelet, French Toast and chocolate chip pancakes.
The United States Olympic Training Center is based in Colorado Springs. It is here that hundreds of elite athletes spend weeks, months or even years for their quest for gold. Not only do athletes come to this facility to work on their sport, but they also learn more about their bodies in the physiology lab, or nurse injuries in the world-class physical-therapy department. Nevertheless, the most important and most utilized building on the campus is the food court. The food court serves as the nutritional nerve center, where all meals are eaten and athletes receive their performance edge. At the Olympic Games in London, the U.S. Olympic Committee sent a staff of chefs and dietitians from the Olympic Training Center to re-create menu items that Team USA has been consuming while they were back home training. The results: Americans won more medals than in any previous Olympics.
The premise to eating is to Keep it Simple!
Step 1: Know your numbers
-Before accurate dietary interventions can take place knowing what your body composition (your fat to muscle ratio), resting metabolic rate (RMR) and blood work show are all important. Now, I understand that not all of us have access to these instruments. First, stop by a local gym. Most gyms carry an instrument that can give you a rough estimate of your body fat. Next, when you go to the doctors for a checkup, ask for a copy of your complete blood panel (CBP) and ask to talk to a dietitian to explain what your levels mean.
Step 2: Address Your Issues
-If you are an individual who enjoys endurance sports such as marathon training, check your iron levels to make sure you don’t have iron deficiencies. Iron is essential for helping your blood transport oxygen to hardworking muscles. Female athletes are particularly susceptible to iron deficiencies. Additionally, chronic inflammation may also trigger a hormone that blocks iron absorption in some individuals.
-Vitamin D is also another important vitamin to be aware of. Compelling evidence shows that vitamin D helps reduce inflammation, increase oxygen consumption, boost immunity, and promote stronger bones.
-To treat, ask your doctor about supplements.
Step 3: Embrace Whole Foods
– This means: fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins (chicken and fish), healthy fats (avocado and olive oil) and complex carbohydrates (steel cut oats and sweet potatoes). These whole foods ensure a steady stream of nutrients to an individuals body. Additionally, balance the amount of carbohydrates consumed based on the amount of physical activity performed. Carbohydrates are an athletes best friend as they help and individual perform at their highest level. Therefore, don’t skip the carbohydrates!
Step 4: May Out Your Meal Plan
-A meal plan is lucid and should changed based on activity. Remember to raise and lower total calories by manipulating ratios of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Step 5: Hydrate
-Too often hydration is neglected. Recreational athletes need to weight themselves before and after a race or a hard workout to see how much water weight was lost. This helps to provide an individual with a good idea of how much fluid needs to be consumed to bring that individual back to a hydrated state.
-For example, you should be hydrating enough during the day that you lose less than 2 percent of your body weight during exercise.
Even though you and I may not be elite athletes or training for a gold metal, we can still eat like one. The biggest thing to remember is elite athletes are just like you and me with constant food struggles. By being committed and consistent with your food and physical activity, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!
Heil, Nick. The Secret Food of Athletes: Inside the Olympic Training Center’s Nutrition Lab. March 2013. Outside Magazine.