An Athelete's Diet

What kind of food is needed, how much and how often do athletes eat?

According to the Deutsche Sport Hochschule Köln, Germany’s largest and most prestigious center of teaching and research in physical education, sport science and athletic nutrition, athletes can eat any food they like.

The keys are careful planning and conscious eating. The kicker: special shakes, supplements or pills aren’t necessary. Of course, neither is doping. The whole athletic nutrition package can be purchased in the food aisles of the local supermarket.

More wisdom from the “Sporthochschule:” the athlete’s appetite should dictate what or how much he or she eats. Sport nutritionists customize an athlete’s diet according to taste preferences. Always recommended are nuts, dried and fresh fruits, whole grain breads, oat cereals, muesli, lean meats, dairy foods and fibers. But true Olympic menus can also include steaks and fries, schnitzel with spätzle, cake and coffee, even gummi bears or chocolates (albeit very sparingly).

A replica of Michael Phelps’ breakfast at History of Food exhibition at the National Geographic Museum Washington, DC

On average, Olympic athletes need three times as many calories per day as the average human being – about 6,500 calories and sometimes more. US star swimmer Michael Phelps is known to consumer over 16,000 calories a day … spending about as much during training.

Depending on their training schedule, athletes may need more protein (for muscle building) carbs (for quick energy bursts and anaerobic training) or carb/fat combinations (for long-burning endurance and aerobic training).

Nutritionists generally recommend that high performance athletes get 65% of their daily energy from carbohydrate-rich foods like whole grain breads, cereals, rice, pasta, potatoes, beans or lentils. The World’s fastest runner during the 2008 Olympic Games, Usain Bolt from Jamaica, is said to have obtained his strength from yams. Other nutritionists push protein and fat diets. Again, all depends on the individual’s needs and preferences.


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