Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Eat Like an Olympian


Gold Medal Nutrition: Eat Like an Olympian


A total of 26,640 beds have been booked, 12,180 lunches have been eaten, 5,400 bananas were munched and that was just to get the Olympic torch to London!
To make it to the 2012 Olympics, athletes not only train their bodies and their minds to perfection, they must hone in on their nutrition. They know that what they eat can make a difference in Olympic gold. Training and competing in the Olympics involves a tremendous amount of hard work, dedication and perseverance.
Eating a healthy diet sufficient in nutrients and calories to fuel training is the key component and may just be the deciding factor in that tenth of a second that distinguishes a gold medal from silver. These athletes know firsthand how to eat and drink for optimal performance and recovery.
More: How to Adjust Your Nutrition on Race Day

Olympians Eat Breakfast Daily

Olympians consume their first meal approximately 30 minutes after waking up. Our bodies become insulin sensitive after eating breakfast. Insulin sensitivity refers to how well the body responds to the hormone insulin. When you eat most of your calories earlier in the day, the total caloric intake throughout the day actually decreases.
Starting the day with protein is a good choice. When consuming lean protein in the morning choose omega-3 rich eggs or egg whites; low-fat, organic dairy; lean and clean breakfast meats; as well as the high protein, whole grains like steel cut oatmeal or quinoa.
More: Are You Eating the Right Breakfast?

Olympians Eat Organic

Foods which are not organic may be toxic and pose severe health risks to people as well as hinder athletic performance. Avoid the most contaminated fruits and vegetables by purchasing organic versions. “The Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables was put together by the Environmental Working Group, this list includes apples, celery, bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, blueberries and potatoes—some of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables.

Olympians Eat Small, Frequent Meals

The Olympic season is considered peak season for athletes. They should fuel often, eating every four hours. By keeping a regular meal schedule athletes can prevent fatigue and reduce injury risk. During competition the most rapid use of fuel, regardless of intensity occurs during the first 20 to 30 minutes. The goal of athlete’s during competition is to provide macronutrients and calories to sustain the activity. Athletes need proper nutrition to prevent glycogen depletion, enhance their immune function, reduce muscle damage, and speed muscle recovery.
More: Top Marathon Recovery Foods

Olympians Hydrate Often

When entering competition fully hydrated, chances are athletes will be able to perform better. Fluid requirements vary from person to person, so the best way to stay adequately hydrated is to stick to a schedule. Different from Olympians, most of us only require approximately 11 to 15 cups of water daily, according to the Institute of Medicine. Choose to drink filtered water were many of the dangerous contaminants have been removed.
More: 15 Hydration Facts for Athletes

Olympians Love Power Foods

Dara Torres, swimming.
Power food choice: raw almonds
Almonds are the best high fat, anti-inflammatory food! It’s not often nutritionists recommend high-fat foods, but the quality fat found in almonds is super supportive for athletes especially during recovery. One serving of almonds contains six grams of protein, six grams of carbohydrates, and more than 20 flavonoids. These antioxidants prevent free-radical damage resulting from extreme training sessions. Manganese and copper are two minerals found in almonds. Both are needed to maintain the metabolic processes and support stamina. Almonds are also high in magnesium. When an athlete has enough magnesium in their system, their vessels relax, which improves blood and oxygen flow throughout the body.
Ashton Eaton, decathlon
Power food choice: chunk light tuna packed in water
Tuna is an excellent source of protein. Tuna is rich in magnesium, potassium, B vitamins and omega-3 essential fatty acids. By consuming a healthy, lean protein after a strenuous workout recovery time is enhanced.
More: How to Fuel Your Body for Energy

Carli Lloyd, soccer
Power food choice: edamame
Edamame is considered one of the best plant proteins, similar in quality to eggs and cow’s milk. A unique protein in soy called, peptides, is known to provide extreme health benefits, including improved blood pressure, controlled blood sugar and improved immune function, all which are necessary in the world of extreme sport. While soy foods are still linked to controversy, stick with organic, whole food forms. Choose fermented versions like tempeh, fermented tofu, and soy miso which include immune boosting probiotics.
Tamika Catchings, basketball
Power food choice: grilled chicken
Chicken is so versatile! It is a great source of protein. Approximately 67 percent of our daily protein needs are found in just 4 ounces. Skinless chicken breast is an athlete favorite. Athletes are encouraged to eat lower fat options. Athletes are very hard on their bodies, so the lean protein found in chicken breasts may actually help prevent bone loss. Chicken is very rich in B6 and niacin. These B vitamins are necessary in the conversion of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates into usable energy.
More: How Much Protein During a Workout?

Heather O’Reilly, soccer
Power food choice: Greek yogurt
Foods rich in probiotics have been shown to enhance recovery from fatigue and help maintain a healthy immune system. The International Journal of Obesity, recently published information showing that “adding one or two servings of yogurt to your daily diet can help you maximize loss of fat and minimize loss of muscle.” For athletes, dairy may enhance gains in lean mass, strength output, as well as reduction in body fat levels.
Eric Shanteau, swimming
Power food choice: peanut butter
Peanuts, like almonds, are a very good source of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. Peanuts actually contain high concentrations of polyphenols. Roasting peanuts can actually boost their antioxidant level by as much as 22 percent! Nutrition science has found that those who eat nuts at least twice a week are much less likely to gain weight than those who almost never eat nuts. So for the athlete needing to maintain their weight for competition nuts are a great snack choice for quick, sustained energy.
More: Learn to Snack Strategically

Reese Hoffa, shot put
Power food choice: sprouted-grain breads
Sprouted-grain breads are made from wheat kernels, called wheat berries. The kernels sprout, are ground up and then baked into breads. Because they are made from whole-wheat kernels, sprouted grain breads are a good source of whole grains and fiber. Sprouted-grain breads made from a variety of grains and legumes can provide a complete set of amino acids.
More: 5 Best Carbs for Athletes

Sample Olympian Diet

Approximately 60 percent of an athlete's diet should steam from carbohydrates with a mix of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and small amounts of low fat, organic dairy. About 30 percent of an athlete's diet should come from lean proteins, fish, poultry, lean meats, beans, and low fat, organic dairy. Another 10 percent of an athlete's diet should come from quality fats, olive and canola oils, nuts and nut butters, seeds and avocados.
A smart nutrition goal for any athlete would be to enjoy a nutrient rich, mostly plant-based diet. Always fuel before, possibly during and after exercise. Balance energy by eating small, frequent meals throughout the day and be sure to hydrate adequately with water, herbal teas and natural juices. Good nutrition will always enhance performance. Never let poor nutrition be a limiting factor.
More: Natural Race Food Alternatives

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