how to eat like an Olympian


Eat like an Olympian or Paralympian

Watching world-class athletes compete at the Olympics or the Paralympics is inspiring. It may even spur some of us to kick our own training into a higher gear.

In addition to training, high-caliber athletes focus on eating. That means eating the right kind of foods—either high energy or high carbohydrates—to help them reach their Olympic goals. Swimmer Michael Phelps, for example, may eat nearly 8,000 calories on competition days. We should not follow his food habits unless we're also willing to train like an Olympic swimmer.

Here's a quick guide to the kinds of foods that Olympic and Paralympic athletes typically eat to prepare for their events, and how many calories they can burn on competition day.

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Infographic heading: Nutritional needs of Olympic and Paralympic athletes prior to competition


Type of pre-event nutrition recommended

Calories burned on competition days

Endurance – cycling, wheelchair and marathon running, swimming

Carb loading


Team sports – basketball, wheelchair rugby

Extra carbs


Other sports – diving, gymnastics, kayaking, sailing, adaptive swimming

Some food restriction before competition; moderate energy and carb rich foods


Making weight sports – fencing, light-weight rowing, wrestling

Some restrictions may be needed to make weight before competition

Less than 1,200 – 1,500 before competition with increase to recover and prepare for competition

Other sources used: NPR and Nanna Meyer, senior sport dietitian for the U.S. Olympic Committee, and professor of Sports Nutrition at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, July 25, 2012.


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