Integrative Nutrition Blog

What Olympic Athletes Eat

March 3, 2018

Image via Shutterstock.

The Olympics may be over, but we’re still impressed with the dedication, stamina, and athleticism shown by competitors. So what kind of diet supports these marvelous feats?

According to senior sports dietitians of the U.S. Olympic Committee, caloric needs vary widely depending on the event – for example, ski jumpers may need 1,300–2,500 calories a day to stay lean, while cross-country skiers can need up to 7,000 calories a day to support their long bouts of activity – Iivo Niskanen of Finland, the winner of the men’s 50-kilometer mass start classic, had a finishing time of 2:08:22.1, and Marit Bjoergen of Norway, the winner of the ladies’ 30-kilometer mass start classic, had a finishing time of 1:22:17.6 – talk about endurance!

Olympic athletes have unique nutritional needs due to the competitive nature of the Games. Even split seconds can make a difference in whether they’re awarded a medal, so many athletes look to their diets to give them the edge and help them perform at their best.

Food not only provides much-needed energy through calories but also helps facilitate muscle recovery and reduce inflammation, allowing athletes to sustain rigorous training schedules and prolong their careers.

When it comes to Olympic diets, you may remember the news surrounding Michael Phelps’s diet. Phelps reportedly consumed a whopping 12,000 calories a day while training for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The extreme diet seemed to have worked as he won eight gold medals (a new record!) and has an impressive collection of twenty-three career golds!

U.S. alpine skier and gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin shoots for 3,000 calories a day to meet her needs. She focuses on protein sources, like chicken, fish, eggs, and steak, and a variety of carbohydrate-rich foods, like pasta, toast, and oatmeal, to help keep her energy up. For snacks, she opts for nuts and dried fruit.

Canadian figure skater and gold medalist Meagan Duhamel follows a vegan diet to help her stay in shape and support her training schedule. One of her favorite treats is vegan nachos, but whole foods, like fruits, veggies, and whole grains, are the main staples of her diet.

While at the Olympic Village in PyeongChang, athletes reportedly had an 18-page menu along with six buffets designed to meet their (sometimes) extraordinary dietary needs. To feed nearly 8,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes, 180 chefs prepared everything from vegan and gluten-free dishes to Korean barbecue to keep athletes fueled and ready for competition.

Overall, each athlete has unique needs, but if you’re going for gold, a diet filled with quality whole foods can help you get there.

Which foods help you perform your best? Share your thoughts!

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