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The Surprising Diets Used By Many Olympic Athletes This Summer in Rio

By Dylan Love

The Olympic Games in Rio are over. While that’s sad news for us sports lovers, it’s good news for most of these Olympic athletes — not only did they have to extensively train their bodies and minds for years, they also had to supplement their workouts with solid dietary regimes. Now that the Games are ending, they’re free to eat in a way that we might more readily identify as “normal,” even if it does include burgers at 9 a.m.  

According to the National Health Service (NHS), the average person in the U.S. should eat between 2,200 and 2,700 calories in a day. Compare that to champions like Michael Phelps who were eating as much as 4,000 calories per day and up to 12,000 calories in a single week training for the Beijing Olympics. Diets like these are less common nowadays — athletes are more aware of what they put into their bodies and just how much they do.

We delved into some of these Olympian diet regimes to see if we could handle the discipline and eating habits they take on. Are you up for the challenge?

SIMONE BILES

This U.S. women’s gymnastics powerhouse is almost exclusively made of muscle, so you know she’s packing on the protein. But you may be surprised to know that her diet isn’t as strict as her practice schedule.

According to Biles’ longtime coach and trainer, Aimee Boorman, she has never monitored the gymnast’s diet. Instead, Biles’ eating regime was created out of a strict practice routine and her own self-discipline to keep it going.

She told Women’s Health that her breakfast usually consists of either Kellogg’s Red Berries or egg whites. After a three-hour morning practice, she comes back home to eat a protein-packed lunch consisting of chicken or fish. Between practices, Biles can be found snacking on bananas or peanut butter. Then, three more hours of practice and some additional routine rehearsals later, she’s back home consuming her final meal of the day: fish (usually salmon), rice and carrots.

But Biles’ schedule doesn’t keep her from indulging every now and then. She has disclosed that she eats a full pepperoni pizza after every meet, regardless of if she wins or not. Talk about a champion.

USAIN BOLT

It has been revealed that Usain Bolt, Jamaica’s track superstar and the fastest man alive, would eat 100 Chicken McNuggets a day during the Beijing Olympics.  

Bolt is a sucker for fast food, claiming that his body needs the chicken for protein, but he’s changing his ways lately — according to a GQ interview in November 2015, Bolt explained that he has a personal cook to keep track of his meals.

Sprinters like Bolt need intense bursts of energy to complete their rigorous events. While their dietary needs are relatively low compared to those of an endurance runner, sprinters also need to be cautious of keeping their body fat levels low. It’s recommended that 60 percent of a sprinter’s daily calorie intake come from lean protein and carbs; 30 percent from nutrient-dense foods; 10 percent from fat.

The key, Bolt says, is for him to eat at the proper times. In the morning, he eats a small breakfast of an egg sandwich, and for lunch he eats pasta and corned beef — both meals that give him just enough nutrients to get through training and digest fast enough. But the bulk of his calorie intake (which includes veggies, meats, yams, and Jamaican dumplings) is consumed at night before he goes to bed, so he stocks up on energy from veggies and proteins before a full practice schedule the next day.

MELANIE WRIGHT

This five-time Olympic swimming medalist from Australia didn’t have to eat like Phelps to win — in fact, she did quite the opposite.

Wright has revealed that both her training and diet plans for the Olympics were very strict and didn’t leave much room for cheating. She explained that she would frequently throw up during intense training sessions. Olympic swimmers can burn between 3,000-10,000 calories a day by working out, so it’s important for them to eat right, and to eat a lot. Instead of simply loading up on calories like Phelps, Wright would discipline herself to eat healthy and take in plenty of protein.

Wright’s dietary regime consisted of two breakfasts — a pre-morning training meal of whole-grain toast, Vegemite, and a banana, and a post-morning training meal of six to eight eggs. Lunch was made up of meat and a salad wrap, with more protein before and after her midday training. At the end of the day, dinner was mostly meat and vegetables with yet another protein shake before bed. On Sundays, Wright would reward herself with a slice of pizza or a chocolate bar — before going at it all over again the next week.

Wright announced her retirement from swimming just before the Games in Rio, and who can blame her? A schedule that tight can definitely wear on an athlete year after year.

It certainly would on any one of us non-Olympians.

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