A Day In The Life Of An Olympic Athlete
By Natalie Rizzo
Everyone knows that becoming an Olympian is no small feat, and that these athletes spend the majority of their time training and eating. What we don’t always think about is that athletes of the different sports in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics have different goals leading to very different training and eating regimens. Some sports call for speed, while other sports focus on power and distance. Some athletes benefit from being lean, while others find it advantageous to bulk up and increase their power. Even athletes on the same team may have different physical goals based on duration of play, distance covered, and availability of fuel during play. This causes every athlete’s eating and training patterns to be different. Because of this variety of factors, there is no “typical” day in the life of an Olympic athlete. Yet, I will try to describe the daily life of one of the more popular winter Olympic athlete, speed skaters.
The speed skating training regimen is similar to many aerobic sports, such as hockey, basketball, ski racing, and snowboarding. A speed skater needs to be lean and fast, but they must also be powerful. Their workouts are diverse, and differ depending on the time of the year. Olympic athletes periodize their training schedules based on whether they are in the post-season (recovery), off-season, pre-season, or competition season. Shani Davis, Olympic long track speedskater, wrote a blog entry in July of 2013 (off-season) that tells of a 6 hour training day including mountain biking to the top of a mountain. He describes his off-season training as “biking canyons, lifting weights, and of course skating 4-6 hours daily!” Many Olympic athletes, no matter the sport, train like this in their off-season. Alpine skier, Marco Sullivan, blogs about normal days of 5:30am wake up calls, tough ski training, dry land training, and video analysis of his performance. The point is that no matter the sport, the training is intense throughout the year, with the pre-season the most intense.
The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has Registered Dietitians (RD) on staff to help athletes choose the right foods for their training regimen. Each Registered Dietitian must be a certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD) and have previous experience working with Olympic, collegiate, professional, or competitive athletes. Jennifer Gibson, an RD and CSSD working with Summer Olympians, stresses the importance of a whole-food philosophy with a heavy emphasis on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins (chicken and fish), healthy fats (oils, nuts, avocados), and complex carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, oatmeal, whole grains) (Outside Magazine, 2013). To be even more specific, dietitians will often prescribe a certain number of grams of carbs, protein, and fat per kilogram of body weight to meet the demands of an athlete’s workout. Nanna Meyer, the RD and CSSD for the US 2010 speed skating team and a former Olympic skier, says that a skater will consume 7-10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight on an intense skating day (5-7g/kg on a less intense day). For a 150 pound man, that’s anywhere from 477- 678grams of carbohydrates. Meyer also states that a skater should get at least 1.5 g/kg of protein and around 1g/kg of fat (U.S. News, 2010). For the same 150 pound man, that’s at least 102g of protein and 68g of fat. The diet that Meyer has laid out equates to a minimum of 3,000 calories/day.
What follows is a day in the life of a typical speed skater in the pre-season leading up to the Olympics, along with a suggestions of how they might fuel themselves. As you can see, the diet of an Olympic athlete can be simple and contain many whole foods. Of course, every single athlete is different, and each will approach training and eating in a different way.
|6AM||Wake up||Breakfast: Bowl of oatmeal cooked in low-fat milk with banana, blueberries, and handful of walnuts||1-2 cups of water1 cup of coffee||590 calories
|8AM||Warm up: 10-15 minutes of stretching and warm up exercises||Water|
|8- 10AM||Skate training: High intensity aerobic exercise||1 cup of Sport Drink every 20 minutes||320 calories
|10:30AM||Recovery||Shake with 1 container of yogurt, 1 banana, 2 tbsp peanut butter, and 1 tbsp cocoa powder||460 calories
|11A-12PM||Free time to review training videos with coach|
|12PM||Lunch||Whole wheat turkey wrap with lettuce, tomato, mustard. Small bag of pretzels. Carrots with 2tbsp of hummus. Side salad with veggies||1 cup apple juice1 cup low-fat chocolate milk||745 calories
|2PM||Pre-training snack||English muffin with 1 tbsp peanut butter||1 cup skim milk1 cup water||300 calories
|3-4:30PM||Strength training: weight lifting and plyometric training||Water|
|4:30-6PM||Dry land aerobic training: 45 minutes on bike and 45 minutes on treadmill||1 cup of Sport Drink every 20 minutes||240 calories
|6:30PM||Dinner||Baked sweet potato, Baked fish or chicken, 1 cup of brown rice, side vegetable of choice, small cup of vegetable soup with crackers||Water or juice||575 calories
|9PM||Snack||Greek yogurt and fruit||Water||240 calories
|Daily Totals:||5 hours of training||3470 calories
So do athletes ever go off their diet? Gibson says, “We’re not the food police.” (Diets in Review, 2012). Every athlete has to be able to cheat once in a while…
Photo from Graeme Pow Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/graeme_pow/7387178324/sizes/n/