Nutritionists agree that the intensity of athletes’ training demands the right kind of fuel. While the rest of us may not be training for the Olympics any time soon, we can still be stronger, faster and fitter by eating adopting some of the top eating habits of the top Olympians.
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“One of the biggest mistakes athletes make is heading out for a run in the morning without eating anything first,” says Dan Benardot, PhD, RD, director of the Laboratory for Elite Athlete Performance at Georgia State University in Atlanta, who works with Olympic distance runners (10,000m and up) and oversees the nutrition program for U.S. Figure Skating.
Your blood sugar is already low when you wake up, so you should have something carb-laden to eat, like half a bagel or some toast, as soon as you get out of bed. That way, 30 to 45 minutes will have passed before you actually head out the door. If you’re not used to eating in the morning, start small, says Benardot, such as having a small glass of apple juice, a piece of toast or a cup of yogurt.
Drinking water while you work out is great, but if you start your race on empty, you’re never going to finish as strong as you want. Athletes should be consuming .5 to 1 ounce of H2O per pound of body weight every day, says Amanda Carlson-Phillips, vice president of nutrition and research for Athletes’ Performance in Phoenix, Arizona, who regularly consults with Olympic contenders and pros.
Eat Immunity-Boosting Foods
One of the best things you can do to better your performance is to stay healthy, which means that you need a good amount of antioxidants and superfoods in your diet. Beth Duryea, head soigneur for the Specialized-lululemon women’s cycling team, says she encourages all of the riders, including Olympic contenders Evelyn Stevens and Amber Neben, to incorporate whole-grain carbs, lean proteins, and colorful fruits and veggies into their snacks and meals every day. The more color on your plate, the better, she says. Duryea also recommends taking a daily multivitamin, such as First Endurance Multi-V ($49.99, firstendurance.com), which is designed specifically for endurance athletes. Carlson-Phillips also suggests stocking up on Greek yogurt, which is high in probiotics, as another stay-healthy tool. Sprinkle some walnuts and fruit or flax seeds on top for a bonus antioxidant boost.