DETROIT – Getting to the Winter Games is the culmination of years of training and discipline, which extends to diet, as well. While most of us lack their level of discipline, nutrition experts say there is still a lot we can all learn from how elite athletes eat.
A healthy diet is as colorful as the Olympic rings. But many vastly underestimate the role food plays in an athlete’s training.
“What this means is generally -- a diet rich in carbohydrates, which gives them the preferred fuel for their muscles and their brain when they exercise,” said Cleveland Clinic Psychologist and Registered Dietitian Dr. David Creel. “And they want protein to help repair muscle and sometimes build muscle and fats, which are important for vitamin absorption, and just to feel full after meals.”
Dr. Creel says there are four healthy habits Olympians have that we can all benefit from:
- First, Olympians plan out their meals and eat with a purpose. They are picking foods that benefit them physically and mentally.
- Next, athletes eat on a schedule to maximize their performance -- and they don’t skip meals.
- Olympians also understand the importance of hydration, and they drink sufficient water to meet their needs.
- Finally, elite athletes recognize that sleep and diet are deeply connected.
“Rest is important for both athletes and non-athletes,” Dr. Creel. “It really sets the stage for how we eat; they go hand-in-hand. So, for instance, if someone doesn’t sleep well, they get up late, they skip breakfast, they make poor choices throughout the day, or they may over-eat at night. And when they over-eat late at night, they don’t sleep well, and this vicious cycle just continues day after day.”
Experts say many people don’t realize the impact that a poor diet has on their performance at work, at home, and in life in general. Making healthy changes can help whether you’re going for the gold or just trying to get through the week.