The Diet of an Olympic Athlete

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Many believe that athletes can truly eat whatever they want. But in reality, there are very few athletes that rely strictly on their good genes that don't watch there diet to some extent. So what can we see on the plates of our prestigious Olympic athletes? Read more to find out.

For many athletes, diet is truly dependent on the sport that they train for. For example, you can best believe that an Olympic swimmer is not going to have the same diet plan as an Olympic gymnast, and an Olympic gymnast is not going to have the same diet plan as a long distance runner. Take Shannon Miller, a retired gymnast with 7 world medals; Shannon told us that she never had any foods that she restricted herself from eating during her training. Her regular breakfast would consist of 2 waffles, and the occasional fast food pizza on the way to training every day.

But Miller's diet is not the same as most gymnasts. Dietician Nancy Clark shows us a typical gymnast's diet that consists of: a banana and cereal with milk for breakfast; soup and sandwich for lunch; energy bars and trail mix snacks throughout the day; and veggies with chicken and rice for supper. She says that a weight lifter would have a fairly similar diet plan to this, but in much greater proportions, and a larger amount of protein (adding yogurt and eggs for breakfast).

Swimming sensation Michael Phelps diet on the other hand, could flat out feed an elephant. He eats a lot of food with a lot of calories. During his training Phelps eats foods equaling from 8000-10,000 calories per day. Most dietitians would say this is too extreme, but for Phelps this seems to be what his body needs. His overall body structure is large, and for strength and conditioning he needs a great amount of calories to burn off. His breakfast routine consists of 3 fried egg sandwiches topped with tomatoes and cheese, 3 slices of French toast, 3 chocolate chip pancakes, an omelet, and grits.

Dietician Tara Gidus (from the Orlando Magic NBA Team) wouldn't object to Phelps large food intake either. She says that most female athletes should get between 2000-3000 calories a day, and for males between 3000-5000 calories a day. But she also says that these numbers can vary greatly dependent upon the athletes' body type, and sport. In Phelps case, he is supporting a large body and indulging in a super cardiovascular sport.

Gidus says that athletes like long distance runners also have a need for a high caloric intake. She recommends a lot of liquids including fruit juices, sweetened juices, and smoothies. Other sources of energy for runners can come from snack foods like nuts, or nut butters for the ultimate boost. A runners' dinner should be high in carbs; breads, chicken, beef, rice and potatoes, and vegetables. It is also important for runners to get their antioxidants found primarily in berries.

But even athletes worry about their weight, especially female athletes. Where male athletes view food primarily as fuel, women tend to view it as fattening. Weight can particularly be an issue when you have an extreme change in your training routine as well. For Shannon Miller, she found it extremely hard to cut back on the foods she ate during training when she stopped training altogether. After retiring she said that her body changed immensely, and she had to try a very different approach to her diet plan. The most important thing for her was finding a new balance to a new life routine.

Most athletes would agree with this, and say that you eat the types of foods that will keep you fresh and moving throughout the day, based on your own lifestyle. So, for athletes it's important to know that diets can vary immensely, and that you should rely on what will give you the energy needed for your particular sporting event.

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