Nutrition for Athletes: How to Eat Like an Olympian

7 Tips From an Expert for How to Eat Like An Olympian

Olympians are a driven bunch. They spend four years focused almost entirely on training for a few weeks of international competition. And in most cases, every aspect of an Olympian’s life is designed to improve their performance, especially relevant is the customized nutrition for athletes that fuel their workouts.

While it’s unlikely that many of us will be competing in the Olympics anytime soon, we can all benefit from fueling our workouts with foods that keep us going strong.

A Super Human Olympic Workout

Daily workouts are pretty much a full time job for elite Olympians like Michael Phelps and Simone Biles. Phelps trains twice a day for five hours, swimming around 50 miles per week. Additionally, he lifts weights three times per week, which is evident by the fact that there’s not a single ounce of fat on his entire body. Gymnast Simone Biles trains 32 hours a week, taking off only one day.

The world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt also works out six days a week doing weight training, running, footwork training, and flexibility exercises. He hits the track for three hours daily and then spends another three hours doing relaxation exercises and massage to ensure a fast recovery.

These ridiculous workouts require a thoughtful diet. And in the case of Phelps, it’s almost difficult to consume enough calories in a day. He eats a reported 12,000 calories daily, about 4,000 calories at every meal. His diet includes a pound of pasta at both lunch and dinner along two egg sandwiches for breakfast!

Biles’ diet is a little less massive. This 4’8″ powerhouse enjoys bananas and peanut butter because the healthy snack combines protein with potassium to help with muscle cramping. She eats lean proteins like egg whites, salmon, and chicken with vegetables along with servings of rice to fulfill her carbohydrate needs.

And then there’s Bolt, who eats relatively light throughout the day so that his digestion doesn’t interfere with his training, and then eats a huge meal at night. He likes Jamaican dumplings, yams, and fish, for example.

7 Tips on How to Eat Like an Olympian

7 Tips From an Expert for How to Eat Like An Olympian
Image of healthy foods via Shutterstock

Whether you’re an Olympian or just trying to stay in shape, diet matters. Many elite athletes like Phelps and Bolt have the luxury of a personal chef, but for those of us that don’t, holistic health coach and owner of Trinity Wellness Darragh Dunleavy, lays out some nutrition for athletes, or just the athletic-inspired.

1. Replenish electrolytes.

When it comes to eating like a super human athlete,  says Dunleavy, it’s essential to replenish electrolytes.

“Electrolytes are important to keep your body in balance when you’re sweating because that’s when you lose a lot of minerals and natural salts,” she says.

She recommends placing a chunk of natural Himalayan salt under your tongue to help replenish minerals. While she says that some electrolyte drinks contain too much sugar as well as artificial flavors and colors, a natural electrolyte drink can be really helpful. BANa Water, for example, is a clear electrolyte drink that replenishes sodium. It’s made with filtered water, sea salt, magnesium, and stevia without any artificial flavors or colors.

2. Stay hydrated.

When you’re sweating a mile a minute, a natural sports drink can be helpful, but sometimes good old water will do the trick as well. But for Dunleavy, Kangen water is even better because it has a higher pH than other waters. It also puts more oxygen into your bloodstream, which is important for a fast recovery after an intense workout.

3. Choose the right proteins.

You need a lot of protein to keep building muscle and feeding the muscles that you already have, but choosing the right protein is key, according to Dunleavy. She recommends a undenatured whey protein shake in the morning.

UndeNatured whey powder is produced in a way that maintains bonded cysteines, which are really good for the immune system and help keep the body strong. Have a quick smoothie in the morning with low glycemic index fruits like berries as well as a nondairy milk like almond or coconut.

Another great source of protein, says Dunleavy, are legumes like lentils, which have tons of protein but also help replenish vitamins and minerals. Additionally, if you eat eggs, they’re a great way to start your day. Biles, Phelps, and Bolt all love to start their day with eggs because they are a near perfect form of protein loaded with essential amino acids. Pastured eggs are more expensive, but contain a wider array of vitamins and minerals.

4. Go green.

Green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables in general are a must because not only do they contain vitamin A, which is important for immune and cellular function, they also help replenish minerals that you sweat out during an intense workout.

5. Grains should be whole.

Carbohydrates are crucial to Olympians or any high tier athlete for that matter, but it’s important to choose healthy varieties. Stay away from white carbs like white rice and white bread, and instead, choose whole wheat. Enjoy sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes and choose whole grains like steel cut oats, quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat instead of grains that have been bleached and stripped of their inherent nutrients.

6. Avocados please.

Dunleavy recommends enjoying half an avocado with sea salt after a hard workout. It’s a superfood for intense athletes because it contains tons of potassium, which is good for avoiding muscle cramping as well as healthy fats, magnesium, and vitamin K.

7. Cut out refined sugars.

You’ve likely heard it before, but we’re here to remind you, refined sugars aren’t good for you or your workout. They don’t provide steady energy, but rather, refined sugars make for intense highs and intense lows. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, Dunleavy recommends a more natural sweetener with built-in antioxidants, like manuka honey. Choose unprocessed foods so you can add your own sweetener instead of foods with tons of added sugars. This way you can gradually wean yourself off of sweeteners entirely.

How do you fuel your workout? Drop us a line via Twitter @OrganicAuthorit

Related on Organic Authority
6 Skin Problems that Come with Working Out
6 Ways Working Out Builds Fierce Confidence
7 Best Workouts for Any Mood You’re In

Image of a woman via Shutterstock

Sara Novak
Sara Novak

Sara Novak is an independent journalist who reports on health, science, yoga, and travel. She was a writer for Discovery Communications from 2006-2013 and her work has been featured on Discovery Health, Popular Science, TLC, Animal Planet, What to Expect, TreeHugger, and many more. She’s also a certified yoga teacher. When she's not churning away on her laptop, she can be found atop her yoga mat or walking the beach with her husband, baby boy, and two lovable cocker spaniels.