Any athelete—from weekend warrior to Olympic medalist—will tell you that fuel matters. What you choose to put into your body helps determine whether you go for the gold... or sit on the sidelines.
Six U.S. athletes competing in the London Olympic games share their healthy diet tips and tricks for eating to reach your highest potential.
California girl April Ross is a pescatarian—the only meat she eats is fish, and she believes that really makes a difference in her health and performance. She also tries to eat every three hours to keep her energy levels high. To maintain a healthy diet, Ross says "Portion control is KEY! And if you're going to indulge, make sure it's something you really, really want."
Cyclist Dotsie Bousch is an ethical vegetarian. "I am an animal activist and very concerned about how our animals are being treated prior to slaughter for food, the antibiotics and hormones that are shoved into their systems, and what people are eating when they eat this meat," Bausch says. She believes the poor quality of the meat we eat—caused by the poor treatment of the animals—is a major factor contributing to health problems that many Americans face. Bausch hopes to one day launch a nonprofit called AHED – Athletes Healing Eating Disorders. Bausch's best diet tip is for the athletes out there: "Always keep glycogens going in when you are exercising!"
Really dark chocolate
Swimmer Eric Shanteau is a huge proponent of organic living: "Eat as much organic as you can afford," he suggests. "It just tastes better and you don't have all those chemicals coursing through your body." Shanteau's older brother swam for Georgia Tech, but was diagnosed with cancer just weeks before competing in the Olympic trials in 2008. His best diet tips? Don't expect to get different results from the same old routine. "I have done almost every style of training you can imagine," Shanteau quips, "and I believe I have benefited in different ways from all of them. Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity."
Nuts, especially walnuts, are a great snack after a workout.
Rower Mary Whipple already has a silver medal and a world record under her belt from competing at the Olympics in Athens. "I recently was given a vegetarian cookbook and it has been my new hobby to start trying all the recipes," Whipple says. "Eating vegetarian has made a huge difference in the way I feel." She also loves to cook (and eat!) Mexican food, especially guacamole. And her best healthy diet tip is to start early: "Any healthy diet starts with breakfast," Whipple says. "Don't miss it! It stokes your metabolism fire!"
Swimmer Natalie Coughlin is hoping to add a few more medals to her already impressive collection. At home, she's a huge proponent of sustainable living. "Eat seasonally and buy locally," she says. "I have an organic garden and cook so many of my meals from that. I save my seeds and use them from year to year. And whatever food we don't consume, we compost." Coughlin even raises her own chickens. "My chicken coop has five ladies in it," she says, "and they give me enough eggs to feed the neighborhood!" As with anything in life, Coughlin believes the key to a healthy diet is commitment: "When I'm asked about diet tips I always say it should be a lifestyle—not a short term fix."
California Dried Plums
Gynmist McKayla Maroney has a good head on her young shoulders. Her approach to a healthy diet is all about balance. "Eat smart. Balance your nutrition. Switch up your meals every day so you don't get bored eating the same things," she suggests. "Go organic when you can. Don't eat when you're not really hungry, and keep portions small." Her best healthy diet tip? Tune out peer pressure: "It is very important to stay 'in tune,' with what your own body is trying to tell you. Don't concern yourself with what others around you are eating or doing; keep your focus on yourself."
Decathlete Ashton Eaton has a very unique formula for healthy eating: "The less legs and the closer to the earth, the better for you," he says. So, for example, chickens have two legs, so they are better for you than cows, which have four. Likewise fish is better than chicken (no legs!) and beans are even better than fish. He's also a strong proponent of an organic diet for a healthy lifestyle. "There's no doubt," Eaton says, "eating organic matters."
Macaroni and cheese
Images courtesy Mitchell Haaseth/ NBC Olympics