The Diets of Elite Athletes

What Olympic athletes eat to stay on track

Michael Phelps famously claimed to eat 12,000 calories a day in the lead-up to big events, though he later admitted the amount he consumed was “only” between 8,000 and 10,000 calories in 24 hours. This is still far more than the average person consumes, or needs to consume, but is it average for athletes at Phelps’ elite level? What do pros like the medallists we just watched at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang need to perform at their best?

Similarities and Differences in What Athletes Eat

The answer to the question as to what the ideal meal for an Olympian is depends very much on the individual and the sport. There is no standard answer, and the caloric demands for each activity vary significantly. For winter sports the lower end of the spectrum is occupied by ski jumpers and figure skaters, who need to be light and agile to succeed, and at the upper end cross country skiers who need to use their upper and lower bodies and thus use a lot more energy.

On days where they are not training very hard, athletes may stagger their food more throughout the day and consume less carbohydrates than on the days they know they will be pushing their cardiovascular strength to the limit. Most snack on high-protein foods between meals and after training to build muscle, but there is variation due to personal taste. And although something most top-tier athletes have in common is that their meal plans, though different, are very meticulous, they are still human and do have weaknesses for junk food.

Sean White has revealed that he eats eggs and whatever is leftover in the refrigerator for breakfast, while Chloe Kin famously tweeted about churros and ice cream while in South Korea. The emphasis is shifting to clean eating and getting as many nutrients as possible among athletes, with this good influence filtering down to the general public who looks up to them, but everybody has their cheat days and treats.

Apps to Help You Eat Healthily

Track your food intake with ease

You may not be an Olympic Athlete, but we all need to look after our wellbeing. If you’re sitting playing Blackjack online, for example, you should be eating low-calorie, high-nutrient food because you’re not burning too much energy, but you need to be performing at your mental peak. You too can enjoy occasional treats, just like athletes do, but should do so in moderation.

There are literally hundreds of apps to help you track your diet progress, plan recipes, form social connections through recipe sharing and work out what to buy when you go shopping. We strongly encourage you to explore the options yourself, but to give you a small taste of what you can expect, we’ve listed 3 of our favourite apps, available for iOS and Android devices, to help support you in your quest to eat healthy food.

  • Oh She Glows: Oh She Glows places equal emphasis on health and Instagram-worthiness, and the result is that the plant-based recipes are as good for you as they are tasty and aesthetically pleasing. The simple interface is very user-friendly, with a brief description of each recipe followed by directions, tips and nutritional information so you can make the choices that are best for you. Helpful filters help you find the best meals for every occasion.
  • Fooducate: Make empowered choices by scanning products in the grocery store on your phone’s camera, then learning all about its nutritional value. The app will also recommend healthier alternatives and allows you to monitor your daily calories so that you stay on track.
  • Yummly: The wide range of recipes on Yummly becomes an even bigger resource thanks to the exceptional power of its search engine. Specify your needs, lifestyle and dietary requirements, and Yummly will oblige. With Instacart built in, you can create an in-app shopping list, buy them and get them delivered within an hour.

Eating like an Olympian may not be the best goal for you, but by using apps you can work out the healthiest way to eat what you need to keep you going.