Archive | July 24, 2012

There’s An Athlete In All of Us!

By:  Susan K. Wilkerson, RD, LD

Clinical Dietitian, Lexington Medical Center

The 2012 Summer Olympics in London start this month.  Many of us will be sitting in front of the TV for hours watching in amazement as these athletic specimens perform their feats.  Let’s take a peek at what the athletes eat.

From the beginning, food played a big part in an athlete’s life.  During Ancient Greek times most people ate breads, vegetables and fruits.  The meat source was fish for the people who lived near the sea.  The earliest records point to a cheese and fruit-based diet for the first Olympic athletes.  Ancient Olympians came from the upper class since wealthy families could feed their children more protein-rich legumes, cheeses and meats to build strong muscle.

A study of the diet of athletes in Berlin in 1936 (Schenk, 1936) based on the analysis of the diets of 4,700 competitors from forty-two nations, determined an average in-take of 320g of protein, 270g of fat and 850g of carbohydrates, which is 7,110 kcal/day.  The majority of the calories came from carbohydrates (48%).

Today, what you eat while you train and perform during your event makes a difference at the finish line.  With advance research and new technology, athletes today have specific needs for a specific task.  It’s all specialized, but it comes down to eating healthy fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and lean meats.  Highly processed refined foods are avoided.

So as we get inspired to get off the couch and walk around the block, let’s think about what we eat to fuel our bodies to complete the tasks of the day.  There is an athlete in all of us!  As it is today, food has always played an important part in the life of athletes.  In fact, at the first recorded Olympics in 776 BC, the winning runner was a cook, Koroibos from Elis.

  1. National Geographic News Ancient Olympians follow Adkins diet Scolar says  
  2. Grivetti, L. E. and Applegate, E. A. (1997) From Olympia to Atlanta: A Cultural-Historical Perspective on Diet and Athletic Training, The Journal of Nutrition Vol. 127 No. 5, pp. 860S-868S.
  3. Olympic diet in pictures, the Guardian The Observer.
  4. Schenk, P. (1936). Munch. med. Wschr. 83, 1535.