If you spend any time watching the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, you’re likely to see a barrage of commercials, in which athletes sing the praises of food-related sponsors, from McDonalds and Subway to Kashi breakfast cereal.
But what does the diet of an Olympic athlete really look like, or taste like, for that matter?
Kristen Kipp has some insight in that area. She currently works as the wellness coordinator at Marquette University, but she’s also a registered dietician and certified strength and conditioning specialist.
"Nutrition is huge. They have to be fueled appropriately in order to meet the training requirements for them and meet the performance requirements for their sport," she says.
She says athletes have to fuel their bodies with the right foods at the right times. For example:
- The night before their events, athletes will load up with a carbohydrate-heavy meal that's low in fat.
- Athletes will not eat for 3-4 hours before their event, with only a small snack 1-2 hours before.
- Usually between 30-60 minutes after exercise, athletes will consume a balance of carbs and protein to help their bodies recover. During this recovery period, the body is synthesizing proteins and replacing sugars in the muscles lost during exercise.
Kipp says some of the best recovery foods include protein/carb combos like half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But one of the most popular choices is chocolate milk.
"Chocolate milk has right amount of carbohydrates and protein needed for recovery and also has some basic sugars in them that are great for that muscle glycogen synthesis as well," she says.
Kipp was formerly a coordinator of remedial physical fitness programs in the Marine Corps.