Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

How to Eat like an Olympian; Right Fuel a Delicate Balance

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

How to Eat like an Olympian; Right Fuel a Delicate Balance

Article excerpt

Byline: Helen O'Connor, Fiona Pelly, and Janelle Gifford

WE ALL know competing at the Olympics is the end product of years of training, but how much fuel do elite athletes need?

The energy needs of athletes vary depending on their body composition and performance goals, as well as day-to-day training type, duration and intensity.

This means energy intake is the one dietary factor that tends to differ most between sports. An artistic gymnast, for instance, needs to be relatively light but muscular - to work against gravity and perform aerial twists.

In Olympic weightlifting, weight categories for competition range from 48kg for women to 105kg-plus for men. This wide range in weight and size results in large differences in the amount of fuel individual sportspeople need.

Eating right

In endurance sports, such as marathon, the amount of training and competition can result in estimated energy requirements in excess of 20 MJ/day.

That's the equivalent of about eight slices of bread; two cups of porridge; six pieces of fruit; 200g cooked steak and 200g cooked chicken; two cups cooked rice; two large potatoes; five cups of green and yellow vegetables; 30g nuts; 60g cheese; and 1.5L of milk.

Training programs vary in duration, intensity and volume over a competition cycle. This "periodisation" changes the amount of energy needed.

Athletes who chronically restrict food intake (to stay lean, for instance, or to "weigh in" for events) are more likely to experience fatigue, nutrient deficiencies and loss of lean mass and strength. They also risk developing longer-term health issues, such as impaired cardiovascular and bone health, as well as decreased immunity.

The International Olympic Committee has produced a consensus statement on the risks of relative energy deficiency in sport in response to these detrimental effects to help make athletes and coaches aware of this important issue.

How much to eat

But what about the composition of athletes' diet? …

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