What Olympic athletes need to stay in peak condition
Honey poppy seed pasta salad (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
Published Tuesday, July 31, 2012 9:11AM EDT
I was watching the Canadian rowers at the Olympics and the cyclists this weekend. Endurance athletes who have to keep up their speed for a long period require fuel to do that. Like the rest of us, the same math equation rings true: Calories in and calories out is what controls our weight.
For most of us who battle the bulge, we find it challenging to get the 30 minutes 5 times a week that is basic for good health. These endurance athletes, however, can burn 15 or 20 calories a minute!
When these athletes are working out up to 5 hours a day, according to experts at the Mayo Clinic, they can burn 6,000 calories a day. Since 3,500 calories is equal to a pound, unless these calories are replaced, they will lose weight. This can be really difficult to achieve.
A patient of mine training for a triathalon lost 17 pounds over a relatively short period of time. He joked that there weren't enough hours in the day to both train and eat!
Athletes often turn to high-carbohydrate foods. The foods that are higher in calories and still offer nutrients are, for example, a pound of pasta drizzled with sauce (about 800 calories), a dozen eggs (840 calories), an entire cheese pizza (2,000 calories) and a pint of ice cream (up to 2,000 calories) . These athletes still don't get a pass for high, empty calorie foods.
Dietary fat provides nine calories per gram, whereas carbs provide about four per gram. So what might be suitable for the endurance athlete is not so suitable for us! We know from weight loss studies that there is no one perfect diet. Any diet will succeed if you take in fewer total calories than you burn. So while the endurance athletes need more calories, the rest of us clearly need more exercise.
Among the other lessons we are learning at the Olympics is that there are no excuses for not exercising! At a full 8 months of pregnancy, a Malaysian olympian, Nur Suryani Mohaned Tabi, will be competing in the shooting event. CNN reviewed other pregnant competitors. Magda Julin was 4 months pregnant and won gold for skating in 1920. Diana Sartor took 4th in skeleton in 2006 while nine weeks pregnant. And Kristie Moore was an alternate in the curling team in 2010 when she was five months pregnant. She helped Canada win silver.
The Olympics can get us all rethinking our lifestyles and aim for gold in our own personal diet and exercise regimes!