What Do Olympic Athletes Eat? - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

8/10/04

What Do Olympic Athletes Eat?

It is not an exaggeration to say that it is a job of Olympic proportions to serve up 25,000 to 50,000 servings of food each day to athletes who represent 210 countries.

The company that has taken on the gargantuan task of providing 12 million meals in Athens has done so for the last 12 Olympics. It is Aramark-the same company that provides food at the hospitals in Lubbock.

The first consideration has to be culture. Some people are vegetarians; others do not eat certain meats. Spices and seasoning have to be like those served at home. Aramark has to take all of that into account while providing nutritious meals. They have to present a healthy 'world' menu.

Male athletes need between 1700 and 6,000 calories per day. If you watched Lance Armstrong win the Tour de France, you probably heard that he consumes 6,000 calories a day during the race. This type of sustained physical regimen requires large amounts of calories to provide the energy and stamina for the race. A runner needs 4,000 to 5,000 calories to maintain their pace.

On the other hand, the gymnasts spend a mere 15 minutes in exercise during a 3 hour practice session. Their calorie needs are at the low end.

Athletes require a higher amount of protein than that listed as part of the RDA's or recommended daily allowance. Their diet consists of 12 to 15% protein, 60 to 70% carbohydrates, and 15 to 20% fats.

Typically, a female gymnast will eat egg whites (cooked, of course) for breakfast and a small portion of chicken for lunch. Snacks consist of cheese and vegetables and supper may be fish and fruits.

The daughter of gymnastics' coach Bella Karolyi, is a nutritionist and monitors the diet of their charges very carefully. Gymnasts have to maintain their weight within narrow limits. This has led to cases of anorexia and the death of one competitor in 1994.

Andrea Karolyi watches to make sure that the diet of gymnasts is well balanced and provides all the nutrients they need to perform at the highest levels. Women, for instance, because athletics may disrupt their menstrual cycle, have to be very careful to get enough calcium.

Aramark will provide what the Olympic athletes will like and need during their stay in Athens. There are 15 entrees served daily and then there are the bars-pasta, salad, pizza, and many others to tickle their palettes. Jonathan Johnson from Tech should have no problem finding his favorite training meal while there.

With schools about to open, parents sometimes wonder what they should be providing for their budding athletes. The American Dietetic Association can help. They have made available in depth recommendations for everyone involved in athletics on the web. 

You can check it out by (clicking here).

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