Team USA Olympic Athletes Dish Out Their Nutrition Hacks
Nutrition is paramount for any athlete, but when your biggest competition comes once every four (or five) years? Striking that perfect balance of food and fitness can be the difference between landing on the podium and not finishing at all.
The way Olympic athletes eat and train is about as varied as their sports. This year, however, there is a common obstacle every athlete must face: limited acclimation time.
While many of Team USA’s athletes are arriving early to adjust to the new climate in the Games’ setting in Tokyo, they don’t have the luxury of staying long after their event’s completion. Due to coronavirus protocols, most will have to leave soon after they’re done.
How exactly does this shorter time frame impact diet and performance? U.S. triathlon high-performance advisor and TrainingPeaks coach Ryan Bolton breaks it down “It’s going to be incredibly hot and muggy and athletes are working on race nutrition plans to accommodate for that,” he says. “If you do that (planning) wrong, you can cook yourself and be at a disadvantage.”
Since the only thing any of these athletes wants to be cooking is the competition, they’ve developed some tried and true tricks and tactics to ensure their nutrition is as rock-solid as their training – and the good news is you can inherit some of their hacks without having to set a PR.
Nutrition Shouldn’t Be Limiting
The 19-year-old follows a Paleo diet, but believes nutrition as a whole shouldn’t be limiting. “I believe in everyone eating what’s right for them,” she says. What’s right for her? “My absolute favorite is a protein like steak, chicken, or salmon with sweet potato and salad on the side,” she adds.
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Several Small Portions
Heading to his third Paralympics, the 35-year-old has a bit of a more nontraditional approach when it comes to nutrition. “There are no bad foods, just bad portions,” he says. Hammer doesn’t really measure portions or try to eliminate certain foods completely, but eats smaller meals throughout the day to support training rather than just a few large ones.
He’s also human with his sweet tooth. “I have a tradition after every competition season where I eat a ton of brownie batter – potentially a whole box,” he laughs. “My peers don’t enjoy junk food like I do.”
General Health Over Specific Diets
“You can take risks with nutrition during the off-season,” the elite endurance coach says. He adds that nutrition isn’t so much about a particular diet as it is eating generally healthy. “As soon as someone lets their nutrition go, everything else starts going. It’s not always the easiest thing (to build back).”
Walking for Digestion
“I try to walk for 10-15 minutes after meals,” the 29-year-old says. Besides helping with digesting, walking helps Townsend do something that’s lower impact and add some variety to his overall fitness plan.
He also understands that not every day is going to be a perfect diet day. “Some days, it’s a compromise. I’ll get a small sundae instead of a large, just knowing when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’. The answer is being realistic and getting back to your diet so you can have as many good days as possible.”
Hydration and Protein Are Key
For Torres, 23, nutrition comes down to hydration and protein building. “Milk is an essential part of my pre- and post-training routine because it helps me stay hydrated, plus it has high-quality protein to help build lean muscle, which is essential in (my sport).
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