How Olympians Eat Their Way to Success (Check Out Their Menus)

Nutrition

How Olympians Eat Their Way to Success (Check Out Their Menus)

By Brooke Irving, Swimming World College Intern

“Eat, sleep, swim” is the classic saying which embodies the three most important components in a swimmer’s life. It is notable that first and foremost is to “eat.” Not only do swimmers enjoy eating, but what they eat may be key to success in the pool. Swimming is a sport which requires high volume training and commitment in order for its athletes to reach their goals in the pool. With a high daily energy output, swimmers need to ensure that they are fuelling their bodies for both training and recovery.

One thing all swimmers have in common is that we don’t have a lot of free time on our hands, making it far too easy to order a pizza for dinner, or get drive-through fast food on the way home from practice. Both of those options are not going to benefit performance. The world’s most decorated Olympic swimmers have proven time and time again that they place a great emphasis on nutrition being one of the major keys to their success. So, let’s see what they have to say about nutrition, and ways which they incorporate simple nutrient dense meals into their training schedules:

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps, the most decorated swimmer of all time, took the world by storm when his diet was shared on the internet. However, his secret to success is not just high quantity calories. The athlete places value on well-rounded nutrition which fuels his performance. He explained in an interview with Mashable, “if you want to be able to perform your best no matter what you’re doing, you have to have nutritious foods.” Prior to the Rio 2016 Olympics, Phelps explained that he recognized he needed to value nutrition over calorie quantity. He explained that, “I look at my body as a car, and as a high-performance car, you want the best fuel going into that car that’s going to help you perform the best.” He continued to explain that at his peak, he ate between 8,000-10,000 calories per day, consisting of dominantly white meat such as chicken and fish, as red meat can be harder for the digestive system to break down. He also paired his meals with plenty of greens, in order to provide his body with the nutrients needed for performance.

Cate Campbell

As a young athlete, Cate Campbell struggled with body image, where she noticed that her muscular athletic physique was not idolized by traditional beauty standards. This led her to restrict her diet to 1,000 calories per day. Quickly, she became unfit for competition, causing her to miss out on the 2010 Commonwealth Games. However, through this she learned the value of nutrition for performance. She began working with a nutritionist where she gained back the weight she needed to be fit for high performance. She now has five Olympic medals to her name and has broken world records.

She told The Herald Sun, that her diet today, looks like this:

Before morning practice: Bowl of muesli

After Practice: Protein shake

Breakfast: 2 eggs on toast

Lunch: Salad with vegetables (beans, capsicum, broccoli, apple, cranberries), and protein (chicken or beef)

Before afternoon practice: Bowl of oats, or yogurt and fruit

After practice: Protein shake

Dinner: simple meal with meat, veggies and carbs

Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky is the USA’s renowned Olympic gold medalist and world record holder. Her training week consists of 14 training sessions, including pool practices, weightlifting sessions, and Pilates. In order to maintain her success, she eats well rounded meals throughout the day. Ledecky told PureWow the breakdown of her daily diet:

Before morning practice: Granola bar or peanut butter toast and a banana. She explained that “they give me enough energy to power through a morning workout”.

After practice: Chocolate milk

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with veggies and toast.

Lunch: A chicken salad sandwich or wrap

Dinner: A combination of protein and carbs with vegetables, such as chicken and beef paired with pasta or rice.

Dessert: Yogurt and berries

Nathan Adrian

American freestyler Nathan Adrian doesn’t necessarily count his calories, but he aims to reach 225g of protein every day as advised by his nutritionist. Adrian told The Olympic Channel that a way he ensures his meals are nutrient dense is by “making sure I take that lap around the outside of the grocery store, to make sure I buy lots of fruit and veggies.” He explained that his objective with his food is to have his breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins and carbs to match his day of training.

His typical day involves five to six meals, which look like this:

Before morning practice: Oatmeal and scoop of protein powder

Breakfast: Three eggs, two pieces of toast and an avocado OR a breakfast burrito

Lunch: Sandwich with chicken and vegetables

Before Afternoon Practice: Bowl of cereal or smoothie

Dinner: Chicken, pasta and broccoli

These Olympic athletes value simple meals which are well-balanced in carbohydrates, proteins and fats, with plenty of vegetables to get the nutrients they need. If you’re wanting to take your performance to the next level, give some of their meal ideas a go!

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