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While many events are endurance-based, they also require short bouts of high intensity activity, Goodson points out. Overall, an Olympic diet is a generally healthy diet featuring a mixture of carbohydrates (for energy), protein (to build lean body mass and stabilize blood sugar for satiety), and omega-3 healthy fats like fatty fish and flaxseeds (to quell inflammation for recovery and increase calories). Plus, lots of fruits and veggies for their antioxidants. “The more nutrient-rich the diet eaten, the better the athletes are able to recover after training,” she says.
And yes, there are churros and Oreos here and there. But athletes at the top of their sport don’t want to feel bogged down by a huge meal. “After you have a burger, who wants to skate after that?” Goodson says. While they can afford to eat more calories, they also tend to choose better sources, like avocados, trail mix, and nut butters.
Should You Eat Like an Olympic Athlete? Why or Why Not?
Goodson recommends the 80/20 rule for everyday folks and athletes. That’s when you go with healthy choices 80 percent of the time and leave 20 percent of the time for “fun foods.” An athlete may rein that in to 90/10 the closer they get to competition.
Should you eat like an Olympian? Yes and no.
Unless you’re training multiple hours a day for an event, you probably don’t need to eat the calorie load they do. “If an everyday person consumed 5,000 to 8,000 calories in a day, it would likely lead to significant weight gain, even if they exercised regularly,” says Vavrek. Plus, these athletes are working with sports dietitians to make sure their diets are on point.
For those of us who exercise but aren’t Olympic athletes, the same general nutrition principles apply: “Eat an overall balanced diet with a variety of vegetables, fruit, lean protein sources, whole grains, and healthy types of fats,” says Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDE, a Prescott, Arizona–based sports nutritionist and certified personal trainer for the diet app Rise. Grieger is also a medical reviewer for Everyday Health.
The basic tenets of eating well — a mix of nutrient-dense foods plus limited splurges for crave-worthy eats — applies to everyone. “Sticking to that is what helps athletes succeed and the everyday person reach their goals,” adds Goodson.