Chances are, you or someone in your family is glued to the television watching the summer Olympic Games and marveling over the skill, strength, and dexterity these amazing athletes posses. While not all of us can compete at the level of an Olympic athlete, we can certainly benefit from some nutrition tips to help us become healthier and more physically fit. The professional sports nutritionists for the U.S. Olympic Committee have made available a wide variety of educational materials designed for athletes, coaches and parents to help plan smart diets for a busy and athletic lifestyle.
Olympic Athlete Super Tips
Even if your current activity level doesn’t go further than walking the dog, playing games with the kids in the swimming pool, or joining a pick-up basketball game with friends after work, here are some great tips for how to eat like an olympic athlete and become more physically fit as a result,
Hydration is key
Our bodies are made up of 60% water and our muscles depend on water to function properly. When the body is dehydrated it cannot perform as well. You’ll know you’re drinking enough water when your urine looks like pale lemonade or apple juice, and you are urinating regularly throughout the day. In addition to drinking water, fruits and vegetables can also help to keep you hydrated. Be sure to get the recommended daily allowance by snacking on these nutritional powerhouses throughout the day.
Support Your Immune System
In addition to helping you stay hydrated, fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants that will help keep your immune system healthy. Whether you’re training for a road race or getting ready for a big family celebration, keep your immune system in good shape to ward off debilitation colds and the flu. Some of the best fruits and veggies for the immune system include sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, kiwis, oranges, blueberries and strawberries.
Reduce Fat Intake
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we all need to limit our consumption of foods that are highly processed or fried, as well as fatty meats such as chicken wings, bologna and pastrami. These saturated and trans fats can cause inflammation throughout the body and lead to a number of health problems. Instead, make the decision to eat unsaturated fats such as seeds, nuts, olives, avocados and salmon which are non-inflammatory and actually help your body to stay fit.
Eat Smart Post-Workout
After working out at the gym, going for a run or bike ride, or any other strenuous exercise, give your body carbohydrate rich foods with protein to encourage a speedy recovery. Good choices include nut butter on whole wheat or multi-grain bread, a yogurt and fruit smoothie, or a healthy cereal or oatmeal paired with your favorite dairy or nut milk.
Use Sports Products Thoughtfully
When you’re specifically training for a high-endurance athletic event (such as a half marathon, triathlon, or other physically demanding competition) specially formulated sports bars and drinks do serve a purpose. However, do not over-use these products as they are not designed to take the place of whole foods. Specialized sports products should only be consumed before, during or immediately after your athletic practice – and not in place of a well balanced meal.
World Class Weight Loss
Many of us make a commitment to exercise and a healthy diet because we are interested in losing weight. The professional sports nutritionists for the U.S. Olympic Committee have also offered some common-sense guidelines to help people at all stages of physical fitness meet healthy weight loss goals and maintain them over time.
- Be sure to include an appropriate portion of protein in every meal. Ideal protein sources for weight loss and weight maintenance include skinless poultry, fish, lean meats, low-fat dairy, eggs, tofu, nuts, and beans.
- Make sure your carbohydrates emphasize whole grains. These include brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, oatmeal, corn tortillas, and whole wheat or multi-grain breads or pasta.
- Follow the 50% rule by filling half of your meal plate with a variety of veggies. Go for a variety of colors and textures to ensure you’re getting the full range of antioxidants.
- Use healthy fats in small amounts in your meals to keep you feeling full for longer. Smart choices include nuts, seeds, oily fish, and avocado.
- Skip the sweetened, sugary drinks at meal-time and instead go for a glass of water, naturally flavored water with lemon, lime or cucumber, herbal teas or low-fat dairy or nut milk.
- Minimize your consumption of alcohol to reduce empty calories.
- Go for nutrient-rich treats made with fruits, berries and low-fat dairy or nut based frozen yogurts to curb sweet cravings without adding lots of unwanted fats and calories.
When it comes to diet and exercise, it’s important to think of your body as a car. The fuel you put in it, and how you care for it over time, determines how well it runs for you! Whether you’re an elite athlete or someone just starting on the path to good health, what you eat makes a big difference and can influence the level of success you’ll have in meeting you health and weight-loss goals.
Want more information about the diet and exercise regimes for Olympic athletes? For additional sport performance resources, visit teamusa.org/resources/usoc-sport-performance.