Eating Tips From Olympic Athletes

The Summer Games in Rio have drawn to a close, bringing many fans from around the world to the edge of their seats to see if their favorite athletes would snag a medal. You may have watched in awe wondering, “How the heck do they do that?” Well, it’s countless hours of training, but none of the accomplishments would be possible without a proper diet.

So, while we bid farewell to the Olympics for now, it doesn’t mean you can’t live like one. Whether you’re thinking of tackling to first marathon or are just a busy professional or parent on the go, here are six eating tips from Olympic athletes that could help give you an edge…

1. Don’t Skip Breakfast

It’s an easy thing to do on Monday morning—grab your coffee and maybe an energy bar as you’re flying out the door to get to school or work on time. However, as you might’ve heard before, skipping breakfast is something you shouldn’t do, especially if you want an active lifestyle.

Fitness Magazine notes that many amateur athletes forego the first meal of the day in order to get their early run in. A professional race coach in the article explains that your blood sugar has dipped overnight, so you should carb up with a bagel or toast before heading out. You can work your way up if you’re not a morning eater; try starting with a glass of apple juice before a run until your stomach adjusts, adds the source.

2. Allow Yourself a ‘Cheater’ Meal

No, this isn’t a meal that a cheating athlete eats during the Games. This is a reward for staying on track with a clean and healthy food regime, and it’s something that’s advocated by champion hurdler Lolo Jones, according to

The Olympian is cited as saying she sneaks in one meal a week that’s a bit indulgent, whether it’s a big fat burrito or some zesty chicken wings. This apparently helps motivate you to stay on track (literally). You’ll probably also be less tempted to binge eat the bad stuff if you know that special cheat meal is coming.

3. Load Up On…Maple Syrup?

You don’t have to be a Canadian to get the sweet benefits of maple syrup, notes In fact, Vermont is the U.S. maple syrup capital, so there’s plenty to go around. The source explains that mountain biking competitor Lea Davison is a big advocate of the syrup.

Why? She says the sucrose in maple syrup can “replenish energy on the go,” and that maple syrup also contains antioxidants that you won’t find in a lot of commercial energy drinks. But don’t drink the syrup out of the bottle; the source recommends putting it on after-workout yogurt, granola, nuts and fruit.

4. Eat a Bunch of Small Meals

There’s no rule that says you only should eat 3-meals a day, at least says Mo Farah, Olympic runner and gold medalist in Rio. He eats cereal for breakfast, typically pasta for lunch, and more pasta or veggies and grilled chicken for dinner—sometimes later in the evening at 8 p.m.

However, Mo Farah is cited by BBC Good Food as saying, “I’m not really a big eater of large meals—more several small little plates during the day.” So there you have it; you don’t have to conform to the 3-meal schedule to win gold medals (or get your kid to dance lessons at 7 p.m. after a long work day). You could say Mo eats on the run…

5. Choose Organic Foods advocates for natural foods, as non-organic items “may be toxic and pose severe health risks to people as well as hinder athletic performance.” Sure, they may typically cost a bit more at the grocery store, but perhaps will be worth it in the long run (yes, we used that pun again).

There’s a list called the Dirty Dozen that lists the most commonly contaminated (non-organic) fruits and vegetables such as apples, bell peppers, peaches, lettuce, and even potatoes. The list is compiled by the Environmental Working Group, a government watchdog organization in Washington, D.C.

6. Eat Carbs Ahead of the Race

Global News in Canada tapped some tips from a number of trainers that say you should eat a carb-rich meal (think pasta and chicken) the night before the big run (or an obstacle course). A healthy breakfast is essential before a marathon, but keep in mind “you have to space it out before you start your run.”

That being said, the experts in the Global news article also say you should be prepared to carb up during the event as well if it’s expected to take more than 90-minutes to complete. Keep it light and easy to digest on the go, “such as energy chews or dates cut into small pieces so you can take a bite when you’re feeling low on energy,” notes the source.

Jeff Hayward

Jeff Hayward

Jeff has more than 15 years of experience writing professionally about health, travel and the arts among other subjects. He continuously looks to improve his own overall health through exercise, diet and mindfulness. He is also a proud stay-at-home dad that loves taking photographs both professionally and as a hobby.