What Does An Athlete Actually Eat? Part 2
We’ve all heard the analogy that just as we can’t drive a car without gas we can’t expect to exercise to our full potential without fuel (aka food) in our bodies. But for some reason this is always forgotten. I mean, really think about that. If you tried to drive your car with absolutely no gas in it you wouldn’t get very far. In fact, I’m sure someone reading this has indeed run out of gas and had to either push their vehicle to the nearest gas station or phone a friend for some assistance.
The same is true when you try to exercise with little to no food in your body—everything begins to shut down as your blood glucose (aka energy) levels drop. You can experience nausea, faintness, dizziness, and cold sweats leaving you sitting on the ground in the middle of the gym staring at the prowler you were just pushing beginning to blame it for your symptoms and ill feelings.
It’s not the prowler’s fault you woke up for a 6am gym session and didn’t think to eat or drink anything besides a cup of coffee or the only thing you’ve eaten all day is a container of yogurt at lunch (it now being 7pm.)
We can’t expect to train hard without food. These intentions are normally spurred from a desire to lose weight—fair; we do need to consume fewer calories in order to lose weight but all within moderation. Food is the gas that runs our engine. If you’re an athlete or someone who just wants to go hard in the gym make sure you’re not doing your body a disservice and depriving it of proper fuel.
Just take a look at high level athletes like Michael Phelps who was eating over 10,000 calories a day during 2008 when he won 8 gold medals in the Beijing Olympic games. Would anyone even think to call him fat because of that? Heck no. You can’t even begin to imagine winning 8 gold medals on nothing but a cup of coffee and yogurt. It just won’t happen.
I (Coach Tessa) recently had a pretty fun conversation with one of our Force athletes, Matthew, who is a swimmer. We have many swimmers who train at Force, and on top of their 6x’s a week swim practice they’re lifting weights here once or twice a week. They need food and they need lots of it to fuel all that activity.
Matthew Jerden was kind enough to share with me what makes up the 8,000 calories he eats in a day. Matthew won the 2017 Indiana State Championship in the 100 breaststroke, and took 2nd place in the 100 butterfly– so he’s a pretty incredible athlete.
And while we chatted, he continued to reiterate that it wouldn’t be possible for him to make it through even one practice if he didn’t have enough food. I guess swimming over 63,000 yards a day will do that to you (and I thought I was hungry all the time!).
Let’s take a look at what Matthew eats in a day:
Breakfast: 4 chocolate chip pancakes, 2-3 eggs, glass of milk and water
During morning workout/practice: 200-300 calories of Vitargo (carbohydrate supplement, think Gatorade on steroids)
Post-workout/practice meal: 50 fl. oz. strawberry banana smoothie or sausage egg breakfast sandwich and large homemade green tea Frappuccino
Lunch: Chicken sandwich or pasta 1,000-1,500 calories
During afternoon workout/practice: 200-300 calories of Vitargo
Dinner: Steak or chicken, rice, always a salad 1,500-2,000 calories
Snacks: Protein shake 25g of protein or Protein peanut butter bars 20-30 grams of protein
Matthew also made the point to say that he drinks 120 fl. oz. of water a day, which is more important than all the food because without water, nothing can function properly and the food won’t be utilized to its full potential.
So, bottom line, if you’re an Olympic athlete in the making or you just want to go to the gym and get after it, make sure you have gas in the tank. Eat plenty to move plenty.